What are the winter months like in your neck of the woods?
Here in the midwest, we usually get a lot of snow and we can have some ridiculously cold days. Sub-zero temperatures are not unheard of in January and February here in Indiana.
If I had my way, I swear I’d hibernate from right after Christmas until Easter, but unfortunately my dogs don’t give me that option. Cold weather or not, they still need to get outdoors to potty, to go for walks, and to be honest, they don’t seem to mind the cold much at all.
Even if your dog seems to enjoy the cold weather, don’t be fooled into thinking they can survive in it.
“Many people think that dogs’ and cats’ fur makes them resistant to cold weather, but that is not necessarily true,” says Harry Weatherson, BVetMed, MRCVS, ER Service Head and emergency veterinarian at BluePearl in New York City.
“Cold tolerance can vary based on a pet’s size, coat, body fat percentage, activity level, age, and overall health,” he continues. “While huskies and other dogs bred for colder climates are more tolerant of cold weather, all dogs and cats are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. As a general rule, if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet.”
That said, today I want to share 8 ways to protect your dog from winter weather. Many of these tips are helpful no matter where you live.
8 Ways to Protect Your Dog From Winter Weather
1. Be aware of your pet’s tolerance to cold.
Consider shortening your daily walks if your dog is sick, small, short-haired, very young, or old.
Pets who fall into these categories tend to get cold faster, and arthritic seniors are more susceptible to falls on wet, icy surfaces.
Dogs with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances are also more prone to issues from cold weather due to the inability to regulate body temperature.
2. Check the paws.
While on a winter walk, your dog is likely to encounter salt, ice, antifreeze, and coolants that can irritate her footpads and/or accumulate between her toes. Yuck!
If your dog licks chemicals from ice-melting agents off her paws, this can cause GI upset or a potentially a more harmful effect. Keep the ASPCA’s poison control phone number nearby for emergencies.
After walks, always check your dog’s paws for signs of cold weather injury or damage, such as cracked or bleeding paw pads. When possible, avoid salt and ice and immediately wash paws with warm water when you are back inside.
3. Keep an eye out for frostbite.
Sensitive tissues like ears, nose, and paw pads are extra susceptible to frostbite during the cold winter months. Be sure to regularly check these areas for signs of cold weather related injuries or damage.
4. ID, leash, and chip.
It is easy for pets to become lost in winter because snow masks familiar scents that can help them return home. Always leash your dog during winter walks—especially during a snow storm—and make sure her ID tags are up-to-date.
Consider microchipping your dog to increase the odds of her safe return, should she ever go missing.
5. Honk for sleeping animals.
In cold weather conditions, outdoor animals (especially cats) like to seek shelter and warmth under parked cars. Honk, open the car hood, or loudly slap it to wake up any animal sleeping there before starting your car during the winter.
As a child, I experienced first-hand the results of a sleeping pet nestled in the underbelly of an automobile. It’s something I’ll never forget and I pray you never have to experience it yourself.
6. Never leave your pet in an unattended car.
We talk a a lot about this in the summer months, but leaving your pet unattended in the winter can be just as dangerous.
Car temperatures can drop quickly in colder months. Animals kept in cold cars can develop hypothermia or even freeze to death. Be sure to never leave your pet unattended in a vehicle, regardless of the time of year. If your pet cannot go inside with you, simply leave her at home where she will be safe.
7. Consider adjusting diets.
With walks cut short and less time spent outdoors during the winter months, it’s not unusual for indoor pets to experience unhealthy weight gain. Ask your vet for feeding recommendations, and be sure to supplement the lost time outdoors with indoor playtime.
8. Be prepared.
Just like us humans, your dog will need food and water if power goes out during a winter storm. Be sure to keep an ample supply of water, food, and medication on hand, and store emergency numbers and addresses in a safe, easily accessible place. Keep copies of these emergency numbers in both your home and car for good measure.
It’s also a great idea to have a pet first-aid kit on hand for emergencies. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
How do you protect your dog from winter weather?
I’d love for you to share your tips and tricks with me. Feel free to leave a comment, or stop by my private Facebook group for dog moms and join in the conversation there!