By Sara B. Hansen
Many people fail to recognize dog cold weather dangers.
The recent cold snap in the U.S. brought disturbing reports of dogs that froze to death when careless owners left them outside for too long.
You need to protect even the hardiest of dogs when the temperature drops. Some people mistakenly think a dog’s coat will provide adequate protection, but once the temperature drops under 30 degrees, dogs, like people, can experience hypothermia if left out in the cold for too long.
Bottom line: If it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your dog.
Prevent dog cold weather dangers with these tips:
Dog cold weather dangers: Skin and coat
Alternating between your toasty, cozy home and the chilly outdoors can make your dog’s skin dry. Consider adding a supplement with fish oil to help prevent your dog’s skin from getting dry and flaky.
When your dog comes in from the snow, be sure to dry your dog’s coat immediately.
If you have a dog with an undercoat, think Siberian husky, Samoyed, Australian shepherd or Shiba Inu, you may not need to put your dog in the cold on frigid days.
But if you have a short-haired dog with a single coat (such as Chihuahuas, Afghan hounds, and Salukis), consider getting your pup a jacket or sweater with a high collar that covers his body from his neck to the base of his tail.
Dog cold weather dangers: Paws
In addition to drying your dog’s coat, it’s especially important to clean your dog’s paws. Pay particular attention to the area in-between your dog’s toes.
If your dog has walked through ice melt, be sure to wash your dog’s paws. The easiest way to do that is to run an inch or two of warm water in the bathtub to wash the chemicals off. Ice-melting chemicals can cause burns to your dog’s paws.
Consider adding extra protection to your dog’s paws by massaging petroleum jelly or other paw balms onto the pads. Another option is to buy booties for your dog to wear to prevent sand, salt or ice melt pellets between their toes.
If you’re buying ice melt, be sure to purchase pet-friendly products.
Dog cold weather dangers: General health
If you can keep up your regular exercise schedule, the cold weather will make your dog burn more energy to stay warm. Consider feeding your pet a little bit extra. If you’re able to keep walking outside, consider breaking up your daily hour-long walk into shorter — and safer — 20- or 30-minute segments.
If, however, both you and your dog hate snow and ice and you’re not getting as much exercise, as usual, consider adding some indoor exercise options. Cold weather offers an excellent opportunity to take your dog to agility classes or set up regular appointments for doggy daycare. Some inventive owners even train their dogs to walk on their treadmills.
And, just as cars are dangerous for your dog in summer because they magnify the heat, they are similarly hazardous in winter because they amplify the cold turning your car into a refrigerator.
Final warning: like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to clean up any spills from your vehicle thoroughly, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.
Sara B. Hansen has spent the past 20-plus years as a professional editor and writer. She’s also the author of The Complete Guide to Cocker Spaniels. She decided to create her dream job by launching Dog’s Best Life. Sara grew up with family dogs, and since she bought her first house, she’s had a furry companion or two to help make it a home. She shares her heart and home with Nutmeg, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppy. Her previous dogs: Sydney (September 2008-April 2020), Finley (November 1993-January 2008), and Browning (May 1993-November 2007). You can reach Sara @ [email protected].