With cold temperatures and icy surfaces, Winter can be a dangerous time for your pet. Keeping them protected against the cold while they play outside is essential to maintaining their health.
Here is a guide to help decide what temperature is too cold for your pet and ways you can help ease the winter chill.
Variables For Dog Features
Being aware of your dog's anatomical and physiological traits is vital to helping them survive the cold Winter.
Dogs with thick, double-layer coats tend to be more tolerant of cold weather. Breeds like Samoyeds, Huskies, and Newfoundlands have been developed to live in northern climates.
Dogs with darker colored coats can absorb more heat to help maintain warmth on clear days compared to lighter color fur.
Size And Weight
Small dogs have a higher skin to "insides" ratio, meaning they can lose heat faster.
Body fat helps to insulate and regulate body temperature. Dogs with naturally low body fat percentages will get colder faster.
Do not attempt to 'fatten up' your dog during winter months, as this can lead to health issues like obesity.
Similar to humans, temperatures feel different to each individual dog. Those that have experienced colder temperatures more frequently acclimate quickly.
Age And Health
Young, old and ill dogs are more susceptible to the impacts of cold weather. They cannot regulate their body temperature as easily as healthy dogs in their prime.
It's not only the reading on a thermometer that can affect how your dog feels the cold. Make sure you check the weather report before heading outside.
Wind chill can cut through the coat affecting how your dog can insulate and protect itself against the cold.
Any form of outside moisture that may soak through a dog's coat will give them a chill. This can occur even if it is not that cold outside.
Cloudy days tend to feel cooler as the dog cannot soak up heat from the sun.
Dogs involved in high levels of activity may generate extra body heat on cold days to stay warm when outdoors.
How Cold Is Too Cold
Cold temperatures should not be a problem for most dogs until they fall below 45° F which can begin to feel uncomfortable to some. In temperatures below freezing (32° F), owners of small dog breeds, dogs with thin coats, sick or young/old dogs need to monitor their pet's conditions.
When temperatures drop below 20° F, owners need to be mindful that dogs may develop cold-associated health problems like hypothermia or frostbite (see below).
Signs They Are Too Cold
Pay attention to your dog's behaviour while they are outside. They will display signs of shivering, anxiety, whining and slowing down.
If your pet begins to search for a warm place to lie down or hold their paws up, it is time to go inside.
Winter Health Risks
Cold weather can adversely affect your pets health. Take notice of any changes in behaviour and contact your vet for advice.
Older dogs can suffer from arthritis. In cooler weather joints will become stiff making them less mobile. Cutting down long walks may help ease the pain for your pooch.
Hypothermia can affect blood flow, heart rate, breathing and in some severe cases loss of consciousness and death.
The temperature and length of exposure to cold weather can result in mild, moderate or severe hypothermia. If your pet shows signs of weakness, shivering, muscle stiffness and shallow breathing, consult your vet immediately.
This occurs most commonly on a dog's paws as a result of ice balls. Moisture from the sweat glands in the paw freezes in colder weather, forming the ice ball.
Limping or hopping may indicate signs of affected paws. Prolonged walking with ice balls can cut or bruise the pads.
It is recommended to check their paws, tail and behind their ears after being outside. Get a towel and wipe away any moisture, mud or snow.
While this is a staple for those living through snowy winters, rock salt can get stuck on the pads and cause irritation.
Clean your pets paws if they have been to a salted area. Make sure they have plenty of water in case they have tried to lick the salt off as increased salt levels can cause dehydration.
If you live in an area requiring salt, look for a pet friendly option.
Keeping your dog protected In Winter
There are lots of ways to keep your dog warm to protect them from the chills of Winter.
Monitor your dog's time outside when temperatures drop, especially when experiencing wind chill, heavy rain or snow. Plan your walk during the day when the sun is shining.
Keep a towel by the front door to wipe off any wetness from your dog's paws.
Reduce the amount of baths in cold weather. Bathing can lead to chills and remove essential oils that your pet needs to stay warm in cooler months.
Do not trim or shave their coat too much. Keep the hair between their toes short to avoid getting wet during walks.
Dog Coat And Boots
For dogs that are not blessed with naturally thick hair, a coat or sweater is a good idea to keep them warm outside. The coat should go from the base of the tail to just past the collar and cover their underside completely.
Dog boots are recommended for dogs that are sensitive or have an irritation to salt or extreme temperatures. The boots help to avoid damage to the pads and means you don't need to clean their paws after every walk.
When Winter arrives, remember that dogs get cold just like us. Be conscious of any pre-existing health conditions and the effects the cold weather may have.
Avoid taking your pet outside in temperatures below freezing as many dog breeds will require extra attention and protection. Coats and boots will help keep your pet safe from the cold Winter.