Winter is here! As temperatures dip in some areas, we can start looking forward to chilly fun in the snow. Some of our dogs are looking forward to it too. Some dogs love nothing better than leaping into snowdrifts, running through the snow, and refusing to come inside when we tell them they’ve had enough.
Other dogs would be happier wrapped in a blanket by a fire and don’t even want to set a foot outside to potty. No matter which group your dog falls into, cold weather requires special precautions, especially once temperatures dip below freezing. Even if your dog has a double coat and thinks they’re ready for an Iditarod, there are safety steps you need to take.
If this is your first snowy winter with a dog, your first snowy winter ever, or if you just like to gather safety tips to be prepared, keep reading. We have advice on how to keep your dog safe in the snow and how to make sure they stay healthy and active when temperatures drop.
Snow Day Tips For Your Pup
Watch Their Feet
Your dog’s paws developed to help them regulate their body temperature. They have a layer of insulating fat to protect them against the cold. But this doesn’t mean they can just go running around on the ice.
Cold weather can cause paw pads to dry and crack. Their feet can be cut on ice and snow. Let’s not forget all the chemicals used to clear sidewalks and melt the ice on our driveways. That means that your dog’s feet need to be protected in cold temperatures. Even dogs that are trained to participate in the Iditarod wear booties to protect their feet.
When those cold temperatures hit, get your dog a pair of booties. If you have a dog that hates stepping outside when it’s cold, it may make it easier for you to convince them to at least run out for a tinkle if their feet aren’t freezing.
Remember to check their paws regularly to make sure they aren’t drying out and cracking. Keep their feet moisturized with a paw balm. This will prevent painful cracks from forming. In cold conditions, there are opportunities for nail damage as well.
Your dog might not like wearing a sweater or a jacket, but if they don’t have much body fat or a thick double coat, they may need one. Dogs with short legs like Dachshunds, seniors, dogs with hair instead of fur like Poodles and Schnauzers, and short-haired lean dogs like Greyhounds should all use sweaters or jackets if they are outside in cold weather.
Limit Their Time Outside
If the weather is under 32 degrees, be extra cautious. In temperatures that cold, most dogs can’t tolerate more than 15 to 20 minutes outside. Some dogs may build tolerance and be able to stay outside a little longer, with supervision, but the minute they start shivering, whining or holding paws in the air, it's time to come inside. They have already had enough.
Heavy-coated arctic breeds can spend more time outside in cold temperatures. They may even try to drag you outside for long walks. Just remember your typical Siberian Husky living in the suburbs is not going to be well acclimated to super cold temperatures so should not spend hours of unsupervised time outside. If you see ice forming on your dog, or see her curled up with her tail over her nose, she’s too cold and needs to come inside.
Have An Area For Emergency Potty Time
Most dogs shouldn’t have a problem making a quick dash outside to potty. Just make sure you have a special area that you keep clear so they can dash in and out. This is doubly important if you have a small dog that can get easily lost in a snowdrift.
Keep A Drying Station By The Door
Towel dry your dog when he comes in from the snow. If he was out without booties, keep an eye open for ice chunks between his toes, and make sure his tummy is extra dry. Keeping a towel handy helps your dog warm up faster and will keep him from tracking water all over your floor.
Keep Your Dog Hydrated
Winter winds will rip the moisture right out of you. Your dog (and you) need to stay hydrated. You may notice that you’re refilling her bowl more often during the day. That’s completely normal! Keep the water bowl full to prevent dehydration after frolicking in the snow. Avoid giving your dog extremely cold water in lower temperatures since this will lower their body temperature, increasing their risk of hypothermia.
Add in Preventative Help
We all can get a little achy in the cold winter months. If your dog is looking a little slower or if you want to make sure they're always feeling their best, you can add some preventative help into their daily routine. Mussel Mobility Complete is designed to provide joint and mobility support and can be added to your pet's bowl to keep them in tip-top shape!
Know The Signs Of Hypothermia
Hypothermia can set in quickly, even if you’re doing everything right. It’s important to be aware of the signs so you can get your pup out of danger as quickly as possible.
- Curling up
- Pale gums
- Cold extremities such as ears and tail
If you notice your dog shivering and whining, get them inside and warm them up with some urgency. A dog’s normal body temperature is 102 degrees Fahrenheit. If your dog’s temperature has dipped to 99 degrees or lower, seek immediate veterinary attention.
What To Do When You Can’t Go Outside
Even though your dog may sleep more on cold, snowy days, she still needs to expend some energy. In severely cold temperatures and during snowstorms when it’s not safe to go outside, there are plenty of indoor activities you can try. Keeping your dog’s brain and body active will keep your dog from becoming destructive out of boredom and will make being snowed in easier for everyone.
These are just a few fun ideas! Need more game ideas? Check out this blog post for inspiration!
Whatever you do, give these snow day tips a try, and enjoy a safe and snowy winter with your pup!