There is a common misperception that since dogs have fur, they can tolerate the cold. That’s just not the case. Dogs can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite just like we can. We have to take good care of our dogs in cold weather. All domesticated animals should be kept indoors during cold days.
Caring for Our Dogs in Cold Weather
If you regularly walk your dog you know what your dog can tolerate in warm weather. So be sure to take into consideration the cold temperatures when taking your dog outdoors. Short dogs have the disadvantage of being so close to the ground that their bellies can get wet from the snow, so they will get cold faster. Older dogs with arthritis or dogs with serious medical conditions should either go on very short walks or be kept inside other than taking potty breaks.
The American Veterinary Medical Foundation advises shortening walks with your dog on cold days. They also state that “no pet should be left outside for long periods of time in below-freezing weather.” Sadly, some people leave their dogs outside in the frigid weather and most of these dogs tragically die.
DOG COATS – FASHIONABLE AND NECESSARY
To help your dog in cold weather, it’s a good idea to get your dog a coat. Some people who have small dogs dress them up in cute outfits and coats. This is a good thing in cold weather as many smaller dogs’ fur is short or thin. The advantage of having a small dog is that most of them will fit inside a tote or large purse. These lucky little pups’ feet never touch the ground.
Dogs get stir crazy in the winter. My poor lab always wants to go for a walk or romp in the yard. Unfortunately, when it’s below zero with wind chills in the negative numbers, our trips outside are short. When you do take your dog outside try to avoid rock salt. Rock salt and other ice melt products can hurt your dogs’ feet. Spilled antifreeze is toxic so you don’t want it on your dog’s feet.
PAMPER YOUR DOG’S FEET WITH A FOOT BALM
It’s best to get boots for your dog. If your dog is like mine, it may refuse to wear boots on the snow and ice. If your dog won’t wear the boots, you can wash their foot pads with soap and water after a walk or a romp in the yard. To heal any abrasions on their pads, soak the pets’ feet in a mix of one cup of Epsom salt to one gallon of water. It’s best to soak their feet around ten minutes if you can get them to keep still that long. Even five minutes in the solution will help.
There are all kinds of balm available for our dogs’ feet. Petroleum jelly can also be used on dry or scratched foot pads. There are ways to make your own paw balm with beeswax, shea butter, and oils. The important thing to remember is whatever you put on your dog’s foot pads can be licked off. You don’t want them ingesting something that could make them sick.
LONG-HAIRED DOGS PLUS SNOW EQUALS SNOWBALLS
When your dog comes inside after playing in the snow, dry them off so they will warm up faster. Also, check their feet and underbelly for snowballs. Long haired dogs will gather snowballs on their belly and legs. I learned this the hard way with my first dog, Benji, who was a cock-a-poo. His long hair gathered so many snowballs that I usually used a blow dryer to get them off and dry his fur.
The ASPCA recommends giving your pet a little more to eat during the winter months. Body fat also plays a part in helping a pets’ tolerance for the cold. They also recommend not bathing your pet in cold weather. I like to use Burt’s Bees Waterless Shampoo for dogs. I use it on my black lab and it makes her coat soft and shiny.
PROTECTING OUR DOGS IN COLD WEATHER IS IMPORTANT
It is important to protect our dogs in cold weather. They are family members much like our children. We have to watch over them like children. Watch out for things like spilled chemicals, ice melt products, and abrasions on their foot pads. When they are wet and cold they can go into hypothermia. We want them to have fun in the snow but be warm and dry inside too. Our dogs give us so much unconditional love. The least we can do is to return that love with care and protection.