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the Dog Blog

How Cold Weather Affects Dogs, and What You Can Do to Help

A pet parent keeping her dog safe and warm outside in the cold weather.

Jack Frost doesn’t just nip at noses, but at our pooch’s paws too. Even though our dogs may have a built-in fur coat, winter months and frigid temperatures can present challenges for our four-legged family members.

It’s important to be aware of how the effects of low temperatures can impact our dog’s health and what precautions you can take when spending some quality time outdoors. Here are a few considerations for keeping your pooch warm and healthy this winter.

Which Dog Breeds Are Most Affected by the Cold?

Unless your dog is a true cold-weather dog breed, such as an Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky, or Samoyed, he is going to be affected by the cold no matter how thick of a coat he seems to have. Dogs with shorter hair and little or no undercoat will especially notice the cold more quickly than dogs with longer hair or undercoats. Short-legged breeds, toy breeds, puppies, and senior dogs are also more easily troubled by the cold.

If your dog has certain health conditions, he is going to have a harder time weathering the cold temperatures compared to their healthier compadres. Be sure to consider that certain temperatures can compromise your dog’s ability to regulate body heat and adjust to the cold. Though healthy dogs may be able to tolerate chilly temperatures better, all dogs should not spend too much time outdoors in the cold.

What Temperature is Too Cold For Dogs?

Jennifer Coates, DVM and writer for WebMD recommends that once the temperature falls below 45 degrees, it’s time to pay attention to your dog’s outdoor activities.  Dogs with no undercoat and short hair may start to be cold at these temperatures. At 32 degrees, smaller dogs, dogs that are not built for winter, young puppies and older dogs should have limited time outdoors.  Below 20 degrees, Dr. Coates recommends that pet parents pay close attention to their dogs since these very cold temperatures can cause frostbite and hypothermia fairly quickly.  Wind chill, moisture levels and snow can further affect how a dog reacts to being outside.  If it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet to be out longer than a few minutes for a potty break.

Signs Your Dog Needs to Come Inside from the Cold

When you’re out romping in the snow or just taking a walk with your dog, be attentive to certain signs that may indicate he needs to go inside to warm himself. If your dog is left alone outside, periodically check on him to determine when it’s time to come back in the house. Signs your dog should come inside from the cold include:

  • Whimpering, whining, or excessive barking. This is your dog trying to “verbally” tell you he is too cold.

  • Unwillingness to move. If your pooch stops walking or playing, and starts prancing on his feet or holding up his paws, it’s time to go indoors. When you get inside, check his paws for snow or ice that may have gotten caught in the crevices of his foot pads.

  • Shivering. This needs no explanation. If your dog is shivering, he’s had enough of the cold.

  • Signs of anxiety. Some dogs become anxious when they are too cold. They may even become fearful and turn around, trying to head back toward home. Look out for behaviors that may showcase anxiety in your pooch when spending time outdoors in the chilled temperatures.

  • Looking for a hiding place. Some dogs will look for a place that provides shelter when they are too cold – under a car, a bush, or even a hole in the yard. If your dog shelters himself while outdoors, it’s time to come inside for warmth. 

The Doggone Truth About Doggie Sweaters

If your dog doesn’t mind donning a sweater in the winter months, it can’t hurt for him to wear one! However, keep in mind that dogs lose most of their body temperature through their paws, noses, and mouths. A set of dog booties could be more helpful for your dog. Overall, the best way to fight off the cold is to simply set reasonable limits on your dog’s outdoor activities, even if your pooch is styled in a warm sweater or booties.

Other Winter Safety Considerations for Pet Parents

We all want our dogs to enjoy the winter wonderland safely and comfortably! To keep your dog safe in the cold weather, here are a few other ways you can help your dog stay warm and healthy:

Give Your Dog a Good Wipe Down When Coming Back Indoors 

After a walk, wipe down your dog’s paws. Not only can ice or snow get stuck in your dog’s foot pads, but rock salt and other deicers can collect there too.

Feed Your Dog Well

Just like every other season of the year, you’ll want to keep your dog at a good healthy weight throughout the winter. Overfeeding your dog to gain a few extra pounds is not a way to help him stay warm, and the health risks far outweigh possible benefit. Feeding your best friend a super-premium dog food like Bil-Jac can help give your dog the well-rounded nutrition he needs to stay healthy through each month.

Check Your Dog's Collar and Chip

Dogs can easily become lost in the winter when snow and ice mask the smells they may normally use to find their way home. Be sure your dog is wearing proper identification and that his microchip information is up to date, if he has one.

Limit Time Outdoors

Limit the amount of outside time your dog has when the temperatures start to get cold. Never leave your dog in the car when it’s cold outside, since the car will cool down quickly.  Also, never leave your dog out in below-freezing temperatures. Instead, opt to spend more quality playtime indoors during the colder months and find alternative ways to keep your dog active when the frigid temperatures are unsafe.

 

By taking a few precautions, you and your dog can safely enjoy the winter weather.  To receive more pet parenting tips on how to keep your dog safe and happy year round, sign up for our Best Friends Club today.

 

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