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the Dog Blog

How cold weather affects dogs, and what you can do to help.

How cold weather affects dogs, and what you can do to help.

Even built-in fur coats don’t keep out winter’s cold.

Jack Frost doesn’t just nip at our noses, but at our pup’s paws and noses, too. Just like people, winter’s cold winds and frigid temperatures can really bother our four-legged friends. So what can you do to help keep your pooch warm and healthy this winter? That’s what this post is all about!

First of all, be aware of the effects of low temperatures on your pet and which breeds are affected the most. Also, consider any medical conditions your pet may have and how the cold might exacerbate it. Finally, when you’re out enjoying the snow with your dog, keep an eye on him for signs of cold and know when to go in and get warm!

How cold is too cold?

While there is no specific temperature we can give you that is too cold for your dog, frigid temperatures and wind chills can affect Fido as much as they do you. A good rule of thumb: if you’re too cold, your dog probably is, too.

Which breeds are most affected by the cold?

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

Speaking of health conditions…

Dogs with certain health conditions are going to have a much harder time weathering the cold temperatures than their healthier compadres. Certain conditions can compromise your dog’s ability to regulate his body heat and adjust to cold temperatures. But even healthy dogs shouldn’t spend too much time out in the cold.

How to know when your dog needs to go inside.

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 up. Also, if your dog is left alone outside, please check him periodically for these signs that it’s time to come in and warm up!

  • Whining, whimpering or excessive barking.This is your dog trying to “verbally” tell you he is cold.
  • Unwillingness to move. If your pooch stops walking or playing, or starts prancing on his feet or holding up his paws, it’s time to go in. 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 one needs no explanation. If your dog is shivering, he’s had enough.
  • Signs of anxiety. For whatever reason, some dogs become anxious when they are too cold. They may even become fearful and turn around, trying to head back toward home.
  • Looking for a hiding place. Some dogs, when cold, will look for a place that provides shelter—under a car, a bush, or even in a hole in the yard.

What about those cute doggie sweaters?

If your dog doesn’t mind donning a sweater, by all means, it can’t hurt him to wear one. But keep in mind that dogs lose most of their body temperature through their paws, noses and mouths. A set of dog booties could actually be more helpful. But the best way to fight off the cold is to simply set reasonable limits on your dog’s outdoor activities.

More helpful hints.

A few more ideas that can help your dog weather the cold include:

  1. Give him a good wipe down. After a walk, wipe his paws down. In addition to the aforementioned ice and snow that can get stuck in the foot pads, rock salt and other de-icers can collect there. 
  2. Feed him well. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends keeping your dog at a good healthy weight throughout the winter. Don’t overfeed him thinking that a few extra pounds will help him stay warm. The health risks far outweigh any possible benefit. Feeding him a super-premium dog food like Bil-Jac also helps by giving your dog the well-rounded nutrition he needs to stay healthy year ‘round.
  3. Check his collar and chip. Dogs can easily become lost in the winter because 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.
  4. Bring them in! Limit the amount of outside time your dog has when it starts to get cold outside.  Please, never leave your dog outdoors in below-freezing temperatures. Be sure he is inside and you can both enjoy the companionship on a long cold night!

Keeping these simple precautions in mind assure that you and your pet enjoy the winter wonderland safely and comfortably!

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Do you have other questions about how cold weather may affect your dog? Or do you have additional tips on how to help your dog weather colder temperatures? Please chime in!

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