Updated: Nov 12, 2019
by Alana Holst, Dog Breeder
When the weather outside is frightful, it's not just time for Christmas Caroling, it's time to consider the health and safety needs of your precious pooch! Snow, sleet, ice, wind… there’s a lot to prepare for when it comes to winter weather. Just like we’re affected by the cold, our dogs are, as well.
If your pooch spends most of its time romping in your backyard, the arrival of winter may be a rude awakening. Yes, your dog is wearing a fur suit, but that doesn't mean they are equipped to be spending long periods outside in frigid temperatures.
There are definitely ways that you can help your fur friends stay warm and well-cared for when the temps dip and even soar below zero.
Staying Warm in the Cold
We may think that our dogs flowing mane might ensure they will be warm and toasty through the winter months, but as gorgeous as those soft, plush coats may be, those fur coats are not a perfect insulator against the bitter cold Canadian winters.
Winter can see pets suffering from the extreme temperatures. Just as winter thrill seekers can succumb to the conditions despite layering on the latest and most technologically advanced winter gear, your fluffy companion can be overwhelmed by excessive cold. Especially once your pooch's coat becomes wet, then the fur loses much of its insulating ability. For dogs with short hair, they have even less protection from the elements. Their nose, ears and feet are particularly vulnerable to harsh conditions.
Therefore our dog's need our help in winter to protect them from extreme weather and temperatures. Such help includes plenty of food, water, boots, coats, and ear covers. Be very careful when temps dip below freezing. If it's too cold for you, it's also likely too cold for your pet.
Should Your Dog Dress for the Weather?
We are all too quick to layer up to deal with winter conditions, so it makes sense that we should offer our dogs some of those same precautions, but it's not a complete solution.
Yes, that Chilly Dogs, Canadian Made full body sweater with hood is ADORBS on your Woofie, but you cannot just throw a sweater or coat on your dog and send them outside to brave the conditions without proper supervision. Your pooch is still at risk for frostbite and other health conditions and must be monitored. Also, those cute clothes can pose a health risk all on their own, if your dog is not being monitored. The clothing could become wet, making your dog more at risk for hypothermia, they are also in danger of trying to get out of their clothes, despite how cute they look in them, and could do so in such a way that poses a choking hazard or suffocation risk. Keeping an eye on your sweater wearing friend is essential.
While your on supervision duty, be mindful of your pooch's foot pads. In a very short period of time, snow can fill and freeze in the areas between theirs pads and cause issues. Trim Foot Fuzz hair on the feet of long-haired dogs can form ice balls between pads and toes. Keep them trimmed, cutting the hair so that it is even with the surface of the foot. Also de-icing products can cause serious illness to your pooch if they are not pet friendly causing burning to the pads themselves, but also danger to your pet if they later lick that material off and out of their thawing feet. It's a good idea to go with protective booties for your dog. But, we all know, they are not always accepted! Try slipping your pup's feet into baby socks first, to wear around the house in order to get him used to the sensation of something on his feet. Once he's adapted to having something on his feet, he'll be ready for the real thing. Be sure to fit booties snugly, but not overly tight. If they are too tight, you risk limiting circulation, which makes frostbite more likely to occur.
Winter Safety for Pups and Senior Dogs
Sweaters, coats, diamond studded booties, light up collars and harnesses - all things are fun and great for helping your pooch beat the cold temps, BUT, all of these things are geared toward healthy, adult dogs!
Puppies and senior dogs can not be left outdoors no matter how well-dressed! The reasons is that they just do not have the metabolism, fat stores or the full fur coat they require to stay safe when winter temperatures plummet.
When is below zero, and the wind is whipping, or it's wet outside, it's so important to keep the young and old, or sick, dogs inside!
When the Temperature Drops - Tips for your Pooch
Most of the time, your pooch will just be taking a quick spin around the backyard, do his business, bark at the passer's by and zip back inside with you for cuddles by the fire....but when it's time for a winter walk, here are some things to ponder.
Tip # 1: Antifreeze is deadly. Antifreeze is thick and very sweet, and can be irresistible to some pets. Vets see many toxicity cases in winter, and if it's not from the Christmas Chocolate, it's undoubtedly from antifreeze and it doesn't take lapping up much antifreeze to kill a dog. Antifreeze can be deadly to a dog if the dog is not treated immediately and aggressively after ingesting it.
To avoid antifreeze exposure:
Be sure all antifreeze containers are tightly closed and put away on a high shelf. Make certain your car is not leaking antifreeze. It really takes a very small amount to make dogs very sick.
Tip # 2: Walking pets in winter? During those dark winter evenings and early mornings, your pooch can be hard to see from passers by. A reflective collar, coat or booties are a good plan. You can even get blinking LED lights to adorn your pooch's wardrobe.
Tip # 3: Holiday Safety. Holidays in winter bring family and friends together for fun and frivolity, but they also carry extra risk to your fur friend. Chocolate and Sugar, especially sugar substitutes (xylitol is particularly deadly to your 4-legged friend) bring increased danger and exposure to toxic substances for your dog. Take every caution to keep pets away from chocolate, plants, holly berries, leaves, and tinsel. Call Animal Poison Control Center at 1-800-213-6680 or your vet IMMEDIATELY if you think your pet has eaten something dangerous.
Potty Time in Fridged Temps
Who wants to go outside when the wind is whipping ice crystals in your face and the air is so cold, it's hard to breathe? But our dogs still need to go out for potty time, no matter the weather. How can you encourage your Woofie to head out into the plummeting temps, in the dark of winter? Here are a few tips:
Shovel a path. Shovel a small area in your yard or dog run and keep it clear of snow; or at least keep the snow to a minimum. Encourage your pet to use this area for his business. If your pooch is particularly resistant, don't be afraid to get out the treats and it may even mean that you need to bundle up and accompany your buddy into the frozen landscape.
Buy booties. If your dog is bothered by the snow and ice touching its feet, slipping your pooch into his snow boots prior to slipping outside may make the process more acceptable to your furry friend, especially when it's time for a walk! Bonus: Pet booties will help keep your house cleaner too.
Keep close. When it's really nasty out there, we recommend staying by the door while your doggo visits his outdoor area, then allow him back in as soon as he comes back to the door. Believe me, when it's that's bad outside, he'll be watching to make sure you're there, prepared to open the door!
Know the Signs of Hypothermia and Frostbite
When dogs are exposed to the cold for too long, their body temperature -- which is usually between 101°F and 102.5°F -- can drop fatally. Here's what you need to know as you keep a close eye on your dog this winter.
Violent shivering, followed by listlessness, weak pulse, lethargy, muscle stiffness, problems breathing, lack of appetite, rectal temperature below 98°F and coma/cardiac arrest
Wrap your dog in a warm, dry blanket or coat (try warming blankets in the dryer for a few minutes).
Bring your dog to a warm area. Give him a solution of four teaspoons honey or sugar dissolved in warm water to drink. You can also put 1-2 teaspoons of corn syrup on the gums if your pet is too weak to drink. This provides an immediate energy boost. Place warm, towel-wrapped water bottles against your pet's abdomen or at his under arms and chest, then wrap him in a blanket. Do not use hair dryers, heating pads, or electric blankets to warm up a hypothermic pet as this may result in burns or cause surface blood vessels to dilate, which compromises circulation to vital organs. Call your veterinarian immediately.
The best way to manage hypothermia is to avoid it.
Frostbite Signs in Dogs
Frostbite happens when a part of your dog's body freezes. This may include tails, ears, foot pads, testicles or scrotum. Severe winter weather, especially when windy or humid, can lead to frostbite. Watch for:
pale, gray, or blue skin, at first red, puffy skin later pain in ears, tail, or paws when touched, skin that stays cold or shriveled skin
Apply warm (not hot) water for at least 20 minutes to the frostbitten area. Do not use hair dryers, heating pads, or electric blankets to warm up a frostbitten pet as this may cause burns. Handle the affected areas very carefully; don't rub or massage them as you could cause permanent damage. Call your vet immediately.
It doesn't take much to keep our dogs safe when things get frosty. Just like us, our canine friends need shelter, warmth, food, and care. When winter's chill sends you scurrying indoors, don't forget your furry four-footed pals and their simple needs this season.
Avoid Thin Ice
Too often we hear of dogs needed to be rescued from icy waters (and those are the lucky ones). It might look like fun to slide across that frozen pond, but ice can easily crack, and your dog, and you, could fall in. Slipping on ice can also lead to muscle strains and other injuries.