The winter months bring cold weather, snowfall, the holiday season, and the new year. Whether you’re a winter lover or you prefer the summer heat, there’s something about romping with your dog in snow that makes you feel like a kid again. However, when the weather outside turns frightful, you’ll want to take a few extra precautions to keep your beloved fur baby safe while he’s outside in the snow. Here’s what you need to know about making sure your precious pooch stays safe and warm all winter long.
Depending on your dog’s breed, you should limit the amount of time he spends outside in the snow. It’s safe for northern breeds like Siberian huskies to remain outside for longer stretches of time than most breeds. But a small, short-coated breed like a Chihuahua will need a good winter coat and boots if he’s going to spend time playing outside. Generally speaking, it’s safe for most dogs to spend around 10-15 minutes outside without getting too cold, provided the temperature isn’t substantially below freezing. You should never leave your dog unattended in the snow for long periods of time, as he may develop frostbite or suffer from hypothermia.
Just like we suffer from dry, chapped lips and hands during the winter months, our dogs are affected by the cold weather too. Their paws are especially susceptible to the cold because they come into direct contact with snow and ice. Snow and bits of ice can become packed between their toes, causing discomfort and increasing their chances of developing frostbite. But snow and ice aren’t the only winter woes that should concern you. Chemical deicing agents and salt can cause chemical burns, and they’re toxic if ingested. We recommend getting your pooch a high-quality pair of winter boots to protect their paws. Remove their boots and clean them immediately once you’re inside to prevent your pup from licking them.
Your fur baby’s safety is your primary concern, and keeping them safe in the snow can be a little tricky. Here are a few tips to help you along the way.
Know your dog’s tolerance
While breeds with thick, heavy coats can accompany you on a 30-minute walk in the snow, not all breeds can withstand the cold. Dress your pup warmly in a coat and boots, especially if he’s a young puppy or a senior dog, as pups and older dogs have a difficult time regulating their body temperature. Keep a close eye on your dog while you’re outside. If he begins to shiver, whimper, or show any other signs that he wants to go home, take him back inside immediately.
Watch out for chemicals
In addition to salt and deicing agents, you should be mindful of another lethal chemical: antifreeze. Clean the area around your vehicle thoroughly to prevent your pup from ingesting this deadly chemical. You may also want to switch to a propylene glycol-based product instead of ethylene glycol. If you take your dog walking on a busy street, keep him away from other vehicles, and don’t let him investigate any chemical spills in the area.
Increase their calories
Research shows that pups need two to three times the number of calories they usually consume during warmer months to make up for the extra calories they burn staying warm during fall and winter. Double up on portion size, and don’t be afraid to feed your pooch an extra treat or two during the colder months. Talk to your veterinarian about how much you should feed your dog if he’s overweight. Your vet can make the proper recommendations based on your dog’s general health, any underlying health conditions, and activity level.
Stay comfortable and warm inside
Looking after your pup during the winter continues once you’re inside, too. Make sure your dog is nice and dry after spending time outside, and do your best to keep him warm. While allowing the temperature to drop indoors can save you money on your utility bill, it can make your fur babies uncomfortable. Keeping your home warm can help prevent arthritis flareups, and every member of your family will be much more comfortable in a toasty home. If you live in an older, drafty house, consider using a pet-safe space heater. You’ll also want to make sure your pup has access to a warm, clean dog bed. If cranking up the heat leads to chapped lips and parched skin, you can invest in a humidifier to alleviate winter dryness.
Keeping your pup safe and warm when the temperature dips can seem challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t let small dogs, very young dogs, older dogs, or dogs with health problems spend too long outdoors. Make sure they have winter-appropriate clothing like a good coat and waterproof boots. Keep an eye out for dangerous chemicals, and remember: if it’s too cold outside for you, it’s too cold for your dog.
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