Exercise is essential for your dog’s overall health and happiness, and that need does not stop during the wintertime.
If you live in an area where winter means frigid temperatures and snow for months out of the year, outdoor exercise comes with many safety concerns for your pup. Before you venture outside to the great, white outdoors, make sure you know how to keep your dog safe.
Here are ten tips to keep your dog (and you) safe this winter.
1. Know How Cold is Too Cold for Your Dog
No two dogs are alike, and the way they feel about wintry weather will also differ. Thick-coated breeds, like Huskies, love a good snow day while dogs like Greyhounds, with short coats and small body masses, would prefer to stay where it is warm.
Before you venture outside with your dog, consider their age, breed, and activity levels. Older dogs may need more support from the freezing weather than younger, more active dogs. Likewise, breeds with shorter noses like Pugs may have a harder time breathing in the frigid air than those with longer snouts such as a Labrador.
Here are a few general guidelines to consider before you take your dog outside:
- If it is below 45 ℉, your dog may start to feel cold
- If it is below 32℉, you should limit your dog’s time outdoors, especially if your dog is older, small, has a thin coat, or has health conditions
- If it is below 20℉, most dogs will become uncomfortable, and hypothermia is a risk
If the temperatures are dangerously cold (in the single digits and below), everyone should limit their dog’s outdoor time, and that includes bathroom breaks. Keep bathroom breaks brief or consider puppy pads for small or at-risk dogs.
2. Keep Your Dog Warm Outside with Layers
If your dog needs extra support in the freezing weather, or if temperatures are below 32℉, a jacket or a sweater can help keep your dog comfortable on their daily walks and potty breaks.
It is important that your dog has a properly fitted coat. When your dog wears their coat, it should be snug but not tight, and you should be able to fit at least two fingers underneath the coat.
If you can, your dog’s coat should be comfortable and ready to tack the winter weather!
3. Protect Your Dog’s Paws
Ice and cold temperatures can cause painful cracks in your dog’s paws. To prevent this, wipe your dog’s paws as soon as they get inside to remove any ice, snow, or salt in the crevices of their paw pads, and moisturize them with paw cream, shea butter, or coconut oil.
Boots are also a great option to protect your dog’s paws. Just like with your dog’s jacket, they need to fit properly to be effective. Most pet stores will measure your dog in-store to find their perfect fit, or you can measure the width and length of your dog’s feet to obtain the best fit.
Once you have your dog’s boots, you will need to ease them into wearing them. Shoes are a foreign concept to dogs, so reward them frequently while putting them on, and during the inside practice runs. Once they are familiar and comfortable, venture outside for short walks to ensure they become comfortable.
4. Clean Your Dog Off Thoroughly When They Come Inside
When your dog comes inside, whether they were just out for an afternoon walk or they were playing in the snow, you should thoroughly wipe them down with a towel.
Excess moisture on your dog when they come inside can dry out your dog’s skin, leading to itchy, irritated skin. Health Extension provides a Skin & Coat product that supports healthy skin and vibrant coats. Moisture around your dog’s ears can also lead to ear infections if not thoroughly cleaned and dried.
It is also important to remove any salt, ice melt, or other chemicals that your dog could have picked up while outside before they have a chance to lick at it. Salt and antifreeze are two of the most dangerous chemicals for your dog. Keep your dog clean and smelling good with Health Extension Spa Care products!
5. Only Use Pet-Safe Salt
As previously mentioned, rock salt is dangerous for dogs. The tiny pebbles can get stuck in the crevices of a dog’s paw pads, and they can burn your dog’s paws if not immediately cleaned off.
Before you put down the same rock salt or ice melt that you bought from the home improvement store, consider a pet-safe alternative. There are many brand options on the market that are safe for animals and children.
You should also protect your own dog from rock salt by having them wear boots. Paw wax is also a great option to protect your pup’s paws! The wax creates a protective layer on their paw pads that repels snow, ice, and other materials on the sidewalks.
6. Wear Light-Up or Reflective Gear at Night
The short days and longer nights of winter mean there is a good chance your dog’s evening walk happens in the dark. Without proper precautions, neighborhood drivers might not see you as you cross the street.
To stay safe, use reflective or light-up gear with your dog, like a light-up collar or a reflective leash. There are winter jackets designed with reflective fabric so your pup can stay warm and safe.
7. Keep Your Dog Leashed on Walks
More dogs become lost during winter than in any other season. Because of the snow and ice, dogs that wander off can easily lose the scent of their owner, making it hard for them to find their way home. This is especially dangerous if you are walking your dog off-leash near water where the ice can be thin.
When you are out with your dog this winter, even if you are in an open area that you frequent in the summertime, keep your dog on a leash for their safety.
8. Know the Signs of Hypothermia
Even with proper winter precautions like coats and boots, sometimes it is just too cold outside for our dogs. That is why it is important to monitor your dog’s behavior closely to watch for any signs of discomfort.
Hypothermia is a condition when your dog’s internal body temperature drops too low. Mild hypothermia starts to develop when your dog’s temperature drops below 99℉ (your dog’s natural temperature is between 101-102.5℉).
Ideally, you should recognize that your dog is cold before hypothermia starts to develop, but sometimes it happens so fast, especially if your dog likes to eat the snow.
Watch for these signs while out with your dog:
- Rapid breathing or slower, shallower breathing
- Increased heart rate or noticeably slow heart rate
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of consciousness
The good news is that dogs that become mildly hypothermic, can simply go inside where it is warm and wrap up with blankets to raise their body temperature.
9. Never Leave Your Dog in the Car Unattended
While you typically hear the dangers of leaving your dog in the car during the summer, when the hot temperatures can lead to heatstroke in your dog, those same dangers are present in the winter.
If you leave your dog in a cold car, they can quickly develop hypothermia or frostbite. The cold temperatures in the winter lead to many people warming their cars up before they leave for the day. This means starting their cars and leaving it unattended while they wait for the temperature inside the car to raise.
If you leave your dog in the car during these times, not only is the cold a risk to their health, but theft is also a very prevalent winter issue. Protect your car and your dog, and never leave your car running and unattended.
10. Make This Winter a Wonderland for Your Dog
Winter weather can be dangerous for dogs. By following these tips, you can help keep your furry friend safe and healthy during the colder months. Keep your dog healthy and happy by feeding them Health Extension Pet foods and Vitamins.
Be sure to stay vigilant while outside with your dog, and always have a plan in case of an emergency. bundled up and enjoy some quality time together this winter! Have you ever taken your dog sledding?