Keeping Your Dog Safe in the Cold Weather

Two dogs under the blanket

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As the weather begins to change, you likely felt a shift in comfort due to the weather changes. Winter weather is different for everybody. Whether you live in an area where you only get rain and hail or endure snow blizzards, you already know what to wear and how to keep warm during this weather. Our human bodies take quite nicely to the weather we get the most in our area, like California, where it’s mostly warm most days. When it’s all of a sudden colder than usual, it makes sense that our bodies want to stay warm. Your dog is also going to notice the sudden change in weather too.

Similarly, it’s smart for a dog owner to keep in mind how to adjust their dog to the weather change. It’s much more than just changing the thermostat to a pleasantly warm 70 degrees. There’s going to be a point where you need to take your dog out for their daily walk, or you don’t want to keep them home for so long. Here are tips to make sure your dog is taken care of when the weather is colder than usual.

How Does Your Dog Endure the Cold?

Not all dogs are the same. If you have multiple dogs, methods that may suit one day may be different from the other. According to Jennifer Coates, DVM from PetMD, dog owners should consider their coat type/color, weight, size, and age before comparing their experience with the cold with others. 

  • Coat Type/Color: Thick, double-layered coats will fare better in cold weather than dogs with thinner coats. Dogs with darker coat colors, such as black or brown, will absorb more heat on hot days than dogs with lighter coats. Just because your dog may fare better in colder weather does not mean they should endure cold weather for long periods.
  • Size/Weight: Small dogs lose heat quickly, making them colder, especially in the winter. Coates mentions that “body fat is a good insulator,” but she does not advise fattening up your dog in the winter. It can cause medical issues in the long run if you overfeed your dog. Smaller dogs will be colder in the cold weather.
  • Age/Health: Young and old dogs don’t do well in colder than usual weather due to not regulating their body temperature than adult dogs. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA) advises dog owners to take their dog to their Veterinarian for a preventative care wellness exam as the weather shifts. Taking preventive measures will benefit your dog if they have any medical conditions such as arthritis, which can worsen in cold weather.

Preparing Your Dog for Cold Weather Outside of the Home

How does a dog owner keep their dog warm when it’s time to take them out? What if they are an outdoors dog? What can you do to ensure your dog’s safety when the weather gets cold? 

  • Dog Home Safety: AVMA advises that dogs should not be out for long periods in cold weather. But, if you cannot bring your dog inside, provide a warm, safe dog home for them. Ensure that your dog’s house is raised, not on the floor, to “minimize heat loss into the ground.” Have enough non-frozen water available for your dog. Have thick bedding for your dog, and ensure that the bedding is changed regularly to provide a dry and warm space for your dog. AVMA also advises pet owners not to use space heaters and heat lamps inside your home or even in their dog homes to avoid any accidental fires or burns. They suggest using heated pet mats with caution due to burns’ potential.
  • Bathing: Should you bathe your dog when it’s cold out? The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) mentions that dog owners should wash their dogs “as little as possible to avoid cold spells.” Over bathing your dog is similar to overwashing your hands; they’ll experience dry and flaky skin just like their human counterparts. The ASPCA suggests dog owners contact their Veterinarian to recommend a moisturizing shampoo or rinse for their dog.

    Wipe down and check their paws, legs, and belly after walking in the cold. Your dog’s paws may pick up ice or something poisonous like antifreeze that you wouldn’t want them to ingest accidentally. ASPCA suggests pet owners rub petroleum jelly on their dog’s paws to protect from “salt and chemical agents.” 
  • Grooming: Don’t overdo it when it comes to grooming your dog for the winter. There’s no need to shave down to their skin in the winter. ASPCA suggests that dogs with long hair should have a light trim to avoid any ice, antifreeze, or similar chemicals and salt crystals to cling onto their skin.
  • Protective Clothing: A dog sweater may be excessive for bigger dogs with thick coats, but small dogs who don’t regulate heat well should have a plentiful array of sweaters ready for them at home. AMVA suggests that dog owners have multiple sweaters for their dogs if their sweaters get wet. Wet sweaters will only make your dog colder, so having a dry sweater around will help your dog keep warm and be comfortable. Dog booties are also great to prevent your dog from picking up any gunk in their paws on their walks that could be poisonous. Dog owners should make sure that their dog booties fit correctly if they invest in them.

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