Winter Safety Tips for Your Dog

Winter Safety Tips for Your Dog

Running Dog in the Snow

Winter Safety Tips for Your Dog

“Many dog owners live with the misconception that because their pets have a coat of fur, they can tolerate the cold better than humans.” – Dog Safety / By Dr. Ashwani Singh

Just like humans, dogs need to adjust gradually to the cold. They are used to being in the warmth of a heated home, and even with their furry coats, winter weather can be harmful and stressful on your pet. They are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia, just the same as their human counterparts. Read more about winter safety tips for your dog and how to deal with two serious weather concerns: Frostbite and Hypothermia.

Frostbite happens when the animal’s body gets cold, it begins to take the blood from the extremities to stay warm, shutting down the circulation. Ears, nose, tail, and paws are all at risk for frostbite. Look for skin discoloration pale or grey and possibly hardened skin. If you see frostbite happening, try to gradually warm-up your pet. Frostbite can be painful when bringing their circulation back, so bring them inside, don’t sit them in front of the fireplace right away.

Hypothermia can happen when a dog spends too much time in the cold, gets wet in cold temperatures or when dogs with poor health or circulation are exposed to cold. Look for signs such as shivering, and cold ears and feet. Hypothermia affects mood and the lack of energy, such as depression, lethargy and weakness. As it gets worse, muscles will stiffen, heart and breathing rates slow down, and there’s no respond to stimuli. Hypothermia is life threatening as it progresses. So, protecting your dog from frostbite and hypothermia is essential. Learn how to recognize the signs that your dog needs to come indoors to warm up.

Here are 15 Ways to Protect Your Dog in Winter

  1. Let’s talk temperature!

Some dog breeds are blessed with thick fur that keeps them warm naturally, even in very cold temperatures, but dogs with thin coats may need to wear a sweater or coat when out for winter walks. A good coat should reach from the neck to the base of the tail and also protect the belly. But remember that coats will not prevent frostbite on the ears, feet or tail … so even with a cozy coat, don’t keep your short haired dog out too long in freezing temperatures.

  1. Go outside when the sun shines

If your dog feels the cold, try to walk her in the late morning or early afternoon hours when temperatures are a little warmer, and avoid early morning or late evening walks. Spend time playing outdoors while it’s sunny; sunshine brings the added benefit of providing both you and your pet with vitamin D. Play fetch with toys, not sticks, which can cause choking and other injuries. So, if your dog likes to chew and chase, pack a Frisbee, ball or other safe toy and play together in the sun.

Related: Is your dog getting enough sunshine? [Check out this post]

  1. Limit outdoor time in winter

Your family pet may love to spend time outdoors but in winter even the furriest dog can get cold.  Ears, paws and tails are all susceptible to frostbite. Take your dog out frequently for walks, exercise and play … but when the temperature drops, don’t leave him outdoors for long periods of time. A good rule is to go out with him and when you’re ready to come in, he probably will be too. If he’s outside in your yard by himself, check often to make sure he’s not showing signs of feeling cold.

  1. Cozy bedding

In addition to limiting your dog’s time outdoors on cold days, don’t let your pooch sleep on a cold floor in winter. Choosing the right bedding is vital to ensure your dog stays warm. Warm blankets can create a snug environment; raised beds can keep your dog off cold tiles or concrete, and heated pet beds can help keep the stiffness out of aging joints. Place your dog’s bed in a warm spot away from drafts, cold tile or uncarpeted floors, preferably in a favorite spot where she sleeps every day so that the area doesn’t feel unfamiliar.

  1. Protect your dog from heaters

Dogs will often seek heat during cold winter weather by snuggling too close to heating sources. Avoid space heaters and install baseboard radiator covers to avoid your pet getting burned. Fireplaces also pose a major threat so please make sure you have a pet proof system to keep your heat-seeking pal out of harm’s way!

  1. Moisturize

Dry and cold weather can do a number on your pet’s skin. Help prevent dry, flaky skin by adding a skin and coat supplement to her food. Coconut oil is a good natural moisturizer that can help keep your pet’s skin and coat healthy. If you find your pet’s paws, ears or tail are dry or cracking, you can also apply coconut oil topically as needed.

Related: Coconut oil has a ton of other great health benefits too! [Find out what they are here]

  1. No overfeeding please!

Although dogs may need an extra layer in winter, make sure it comes from a coat and not a layer of fat. Cold temperatures may even bring on lazy behavior and the need for fewer calories. Be attentive to your dog’s activity level and adjust her calories accordingly. A high quality, whole foods, preferably raw meat based diet will help ensure a healthy coat and good energy for the cold winter months. 

  1. Keep your dog hydrated

Dogs can dehydrate just as quickly in winter as summer. Although many dogs eat snow, it’s not an adequate substitute for fresh water. If your dog spends time outdoors in your yard, make sure she has access to a water bowl, check it often and break ice that forms on top.

  1. Groom your dog

Your dog needs a clean, well-groomed coat to keep her properly insulated. This is especially important if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors. After bathing, dry your dog thoroughly, especially before allowing her outside.

  1. Paw care is a must

Just as we tend to develop foot cracks in winter, dogs can also suffer from cracked pads. If your dog has furry feet, trim the hair that grows between her pads to prevent ice buildup between the pads. Winter salt on city sidewalks can also burn your dog’s pads and is toxic, so after walks around the neighborhood, rinse or wipe your dog’s paws to remove any salt – you don’t want her licking it off. If your dog shows signs of discomfort when walking outside on frozen or salted surfaces, consider using dog booties to protect her paws.