Severe winter weather is difficult for humans to handle, and the same is true for our dogs. Even with fur coats (and sometimes an undercoat), our dogs still need us to take some precautions to  safe. Here are some tips to keep Fido healthy and warm all winter long!

Winter Weather and Your Dog

While dogs may like to go outdoors for some winter sun, a bathroom break, or fresh air, we need to monitor their time outdoors. Frigid temperatures and long exposure to winter weather affects a dog just as much as a human.

Here’s what veterinarians from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommend for keeping dogs safe during the winter:

  • Stay up-to-date on your dog’s wellness exams. A healthy dog can better withstand cold temperatures, particularly if the dog has arthritis or other medical conditions.
  • Keep a collar and tags on your dog, and make sure your dog is micro-chipped. If someone finds your dog lost in a snowstorm, they will able to notify you.
  • Maintain awareness of your dog’s tolerance for cold and do what is necessary to keep your dog safe. For instance, put dog sweaters or vests on dogs with short hair or short legs (they’re closer to the ground and feel the cold faster). Limit the amount of time or length of the walk based on your dog’s size, age, and health conditions. Remember that dogs with serious health conditions, such as heart disease or hormonal imbalances, are not able to regulate their body temperatures.
  • Check your dog’s paws for signs of cracked pads or accumulation of tiny snowballs or ice chunks. Remove ice and snow, treat sore paws, and wipe down paws and bellies to remove any remnants of salt from treated roads or traces of toxic chemicals, such as antifreeze or de-icer agents.
  • Stay off frozen bodies of water, in case the ice can’t bear the weight of you and your dog. You would put both of your lives in jeopardy if the ice breaks.
  • Watch for signs of distress in your dog, such as shivering, burrowing into the snow, or moving very slowly, as this behavior indicates your dog may be experiencing frostbite or hypothermia. Get your dog inside right away, and if the distress continues, call your vet.
  • Don’t take your dog with you on errands or visits, because a car can act as a refrigerator or freezer in the winter. Your dog could suffer hypothermia or even freeze to death if left in the car.
  • Keep your dogs inside. Dogs should not be left outside for long periods of time during frigid weather. They can suffer from frostbite, hypothermia, or even die in below-zero temperatures and snowstorms.

Indoor Preparations

If you keep your dog inside, the AVMA provide these suggestions to keep your dog safe:

  • Feed your dog as usual, to maintain a healthy weight. Don’t overfeed under the misconception that more weight will protect your dog against the cold.
  • Stock up on supplies, such as dog food, water, and any medications your dog uses, in the event of power outages.
  • Provide warm places for your dog to sleep, such as a dog bed or blankets.
  • Keep your dog and your family safe by pet-proofing your home and keep a watchful eye on things like space heaters.

If You Keep Your Dog Outside

Unfortunately, there are some situations where dogs must be outside. If your dog is going to be outside for some extended time during the winter months, here are some tips from the AVMA about how to safely care for your dog:

  • Keep your dog on a leash or dog run so he doesn’t run away and become lost in a snowstorm.
  • Don’t shave or trim your dog’s hair.
  • Wipe up spills of antifreeze or other toxic chemicals so your dog doesn’t ingest them.
  • Provide shelter facing away from the normal wind direction. Make sure the floor of the dog house is off the ground to prevent heat loss. Provide thick, warm bedding, and change it frequently. Make sure your dog always has unfrozen fresh water by changing it frequently.

About The Author K'Lee Banks

K. Lee Banks has a Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree in Instructional Technology, as well as a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Psychology. She is a dog lover who has written many popular articles about dog training, supplies, and behavior. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family working on quilts.

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