As temperatures drop and the cold weather starts closing in, it’s time for dog owners to learn what they can do to keep a dog warm in the winter. This is especially important for dog owners that live in areas where the winter is particularly harsh. When the cold weather hits, there’s an increased risk of hypothermia and frostbite in dogs which requires immediate veterinary assistance and can lead to death in extreme cases.
Symptoms of dogs feeling cold are similar to humans and can include runny nose, loss of appetite, sneezing, shivering, or feeling weak. When dogs show any of these signs, it’s time to take them inside and keep them warm.
Owners of smaller dogs with short-haired coats should be on alert as soon as temperatures fall below 32˚ F because few dogs are able to handle temperatures below 20˚ F. However, keep in mind that puppies, seniors, pregnant or ill dogs are more vulnerable to extreme temperatures.
1. Keep your dog indoors, especially at night
In extreme conditions, dogs shouldn’t stay outside for long periods of time, especially overnight when it’s even cooler. It doesn’t matter what breed or age a dog is, all dogs are able to feel cold at some point. During the colder months, shorten your daily walks and limit the trips outdoors for bathroom breaks. You can make up for the lack of exercise outdoors with some fun indoor activities such as playing tug of war, finding the treats, or teaching new tricks.
If you’re unable to keep your dog inside the house, at least make sure its kennel is well insulated from the cold and has everything your dog needs to stay warm throughout the night.
2. Fill up their water and food bowl
Dogs that spend long periods of time outdoors may need more calories during the cold weather because they also spend more calories to keep their bodies warm. However, you should be careful to not overfeed them. Of course, dog owners should always check their dogs’ water bowls regularly and fill them up whenever necessary. However, besides making sure their dogs have water available at all times, it’s extremely important to not let the water in the bowl freeze.
If your dog’s water bowl usually stays outdoors, a great way to prevent the water from freezing is to use a heated water bowl.
3. Dress up your dog in a warm sweater or coat
What’s something everyone does before leaving the house during the winter? Put on a piece of clothing that can keep them warm in the cold such as a sweater, jacket, or coat. If you need it to stay warm, your dog can also use one, especially if it has a short-haired coat. It’s a myth that dogs don’t feel cold. They feel it just as much as we do, even long-haired dogs. Therefore, dog owners should consider dressing up their dogs in a dry sweater before going outside.
4. Walk your dog on a leash, especially when there’s snow
When the ground is covered in snow, there’s no telling what is under it so keeping your dog on a leash is the best way to keep it safe while you’re out and about. That way, there is no risk of your dog falling into potholes covered by the snow or stepping on anything sharp. Besides, keeping your dog on a leash will prevent it from running off and getting lost if your dog still doesn’t have a reliable recall.
5. Wash and dry your dog’s paws after each walk
During the walk, dogs’ paws can pick up ice, salt, and chemicals used to grit roads that can irritate them, especially if there are any small cracks or redness between the toes. Furthermore, if dogs lick their paws, they can end up ingesting these harmful poisons.
To prevent this from happening, dog owners need to wipe down their dogs’ paws and check for ice buildup every time they come back home. Another option would be to get your dog a pair of winter dog shoes.
6. Create a comfy and warm place for your dog indoors
Create a space indoors where your dog can warm up, especially right after coming back home from a walk. It doesn’t need anything too fancy, a dog bed and a warm blanket are enough. Ensure this warm nook isn’t too close to a space heater that can easily be knocked over or to a heated mat that can burn your dog’s skin. This spot should also be away from any doors and windows that can blow cold air over your dog.
A great option to create this cozy and warm space is to get a heated dog bed, especially for puppies or senior dogs that are more vulnerable to cold weather and have more trouble keeping their bodies warm.
7. Keep your dog dry at all times
During winter, there’s a bigger chance that dogs will end up walking in the rain. Although some dogs are able to dry off on their own, they’ll be much more comfortable with extra help. To make dogs more comfortable, dog owners can wipe them down with a towel and remove any clumps of snow and ice so dogs don’t end up chewing at their fur and skin to get it off.
The same goes for after every bath. Dogs should be well dried off for more comfort. Beware that bathing dogs too often can give them dry and itchy skin which gets worse in the cold and dry weather. Therefore, baths should be kept at a minimum.
Making sense of it all
When the time comes and the temperatures plummet, dog owners need to learn how to keep a dog warm in the winter as there’s an increased risk of their dogs getting frostbite and hypothermia. These tips should help you ensure your dog has a safe and warm winter without needing to worry and just enjoying a great time snuggling up with you.
If at any point your dog can’t stop shivering, whines, or become lethargic, it’s time to seek professional help and take it to the vet as it can be an early sign of hypothermia.