Winter care tips for dogs

With the weather getting colder, you may have questions about how cold is too cold for my dog, and what can I do to keep my dog warm?

 Although dogs have fur coats, it doesn’t always help during a bitter cold. Dogs are just as sensitive as people to a drop in the temperature. If the outside temperature falls below 45 ºF, small to medium-sized dogs and dogs with short fur will begin to feel a cold nip. Don’t rely solely on the temperature, though.  These factors can also affect how cold a dog feels: 

·       Wind chill – A brisk breeze can quickly cut through a dog’s coat and greatly decreases its ability to insulate and protect against cold temperatures.

·       Dampness – Rain, wet snow, heavy fog, going for a swim … any form of dampness that soaks through the fur can quickly chill a dog even if the air temperature is not all that cold.

·       Cloud cover – Cloudy days tend to feel colder than do sunny days since dogs can’t soak up the sun and warm themselves.

·       Activity – If dogs are going to be very active while outside, they may generate enough extra body heat to keep them comfortable even if the temperature is quite low. 

If you ever wondered how some dogs can stand and walk for a long period of time on snow and ice without appearing uncomfortable or freezing their paws, it’s because the paws have pads containing a high-fat content, which freezes less easily than other tissues. The arteries supplying blood to the pads have networks of numerous small veins closely associated with them.  When warm blood arrives in the paws via the arteries, heat is transferred to the veins, thus ensuring the blood has been warmed up before it returns to the rest of the body. This allows the paw temperature stays within reasonable limits.

The best way to monitor dogs when it’s cold is to keep a close eye on their behavior. If you notice your dog shivering, acting anxious, whining, slowing down, searching out warm locations or holding up one or more paws, it’s time to head inside.

Young pups and older dogs are more sensitive to a drop in temperature than those in the prime of their lives. If the outdoor temperature falls to 20 ºF or less, you should not allow your dog to spend time outdoors, as temperatures as low as these can cause frostbite and paw injuries.

 There are a few dog breeds like Siberian Huskies and Malamutes that can tolerate winter and snow better because those breed’s coat is able to repel water and snow and insulate their body better. Dogs with a double coat are able to stay warmer than those with a single coat, as they lack an undercoat. 

 Tips to help keep your dog warm: 

·       Groom your dog regularly to keep the coat healthy. Long-haired dogs tend to get their hair matted and dirty. This reduces the insulation factor of the thick, long coat. 

·       Dogs that actively spend time outdoors during winter need to be fed 10% more food than they usually eat. The extra calorie intake helps to provide them with the extra energy needed to keep them warm. However, this is not necessary for dogs that are mostly indoors. Consult your vet before making any changes in your dog's diet, as increasing the food intake unnecessarily will lead to weight issues.

·       Outfit your dog with coats, sweaters, and/or booties. 

Your dog will still need to go outside to relieve themselves when it’s cold, and they will likely be more open to going for walks when they are comfortable.  If there is snow, ice, slush, or salt on the ground, you will want to consider purchasing booties to keep the dog’s paws from getting cut, cracked, or infected.  Icy particles and snow can collect between a dog’s toes, and most road salts and deicers are toxic to dogs.  

There are varieties of dog booties depending on the situation, but the most important aspect is the proper fit.  You will also want to spend some time getting your dog used to wearing booties prior to needing them since most dogs are not used to something on their feet and may be so distracted by the booties that all they focus on is how to get them off.  If you do not have dog booties, you could try using mittens or socks with a rubber band holding them up in a pinch. If you don’t have mittens or socks available, you could spray your dog’s paws with cooking spray before taking them out in the snow as this will help prevent their paws from cracking or splitting. For dog bootie recommendations, you can visit:

 Even if you don’t have snow, slush, ice, or salt on the ground, you will also want to consider whether to have your dog wear a coat.  Not all dogs need a coat or sweater to keep them warm when venturing outside, but shorter-haired breeds, senior dogs, puppies and dogs with medical conditions do benefit from the additional warmth.  If your dog will only be outside for 10 minutes or less, they typically do not need any clothing except in extremely cold climates. Coats should be removed from the pet after they are no longer needed to prevent overheating, chafing and irritation of the skin.  For dog coat recommendations, you can visit:


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