As the fall season ends, and we plunge deeper into the cold and snowy winter, you have to take extra care of your dog. There are so many facts about the dogs’ ability to tolerate cold, snowy winters; some are misleading and dangerous while others are real.
However, the most important fact to start with is the acclimation to the cold weather.
Many dogs are excited during their play in the snow, but it’s recommended to keep your dog away from frozen water sources such as lakes, ponds, and rivers. The thin ice can easily break, which puts your dog at risk of falling underneath.
However, even if the water is not frozen over, winter water is icy, and allowing your dog to walk around with a wet coat keeps him vulnerable to hypothermia.
How To Acclimate Your Dog To Cold Weather?
Dogs are very much similar to humans regarding the need to acclimate. There is a significant difference between being adapted slowly to the cold and suddenly being dumped in freezing conditions with no preparation.
Your dog will be fine if he experiences a gradual temperature drop during October and November.
If your dog is not shivering or trying to get into the house, it’s perfectly fine for him to stay outside for longer. You may start with short sessions outdoors and increase slowly so the dog can have time to adjust.
How Much Cold Can Your Dog Tolerate Outside?
Some dogs are more vulnerable to the cold and snowy weather than others are, just as some dogs are more tolerant of the hot weather than others are.
This always depends on factors that affect the dog’s ability to stay warm; these factors include the dog’s age, weight, type, and coat color. Please don’t make the mistake of taking your neighbor’s dog as an example of being perfectly acceptable in the cold weather. It doesn’t mean that your dog will be fine.
When you wish to determine whether your dog should stay outside or not, consider the weather’s different factors, rather than just depending on the number displayed on your thermometer.
These weather factors are the wind chill, fog, general dampness, and an overcast day or a sunny one. These factors would make the day seem colder and should have a substantial effect on limiting your dog’s ability to stay warm.
In addition to your dog’s energy and activity level, like if your dog loves wondering around so fast that you can hardly keep up with him, this dog will have his blood pumping much more quickly than an inactive one who prefers to stay in one place.
In general, dogs will be perfectly fine until the temperature drops below 45F, where they will start to feel the cold. At 32F, your small dog and your elderly dog or the dog with a pre-existing health condition should stay indoors.
However, at 20F or below that, your dog, regardless of his breed or age or overall health, shouldn’t be kept outside for more than a few minutes to avoid the risk of hypothermia or frostbite.
Hypothermia And Frostbite Signs
Accidents can always happen despite the good care of your dog. These accidents might be exposure to hypothermia and frostbite; here are some signs and symptoms for your consideration:
- Disorientation or lack of alertness.
- Frequent shivering.
- Slow and shallow breathing.
- Slow or nearly inaudible heartbeats.
- Frostbite on ears, nose, paw pads, or tail tip.
- Weakness and listlessness.
Once you notice any of the above symptoms, the dog should be brought inside. The first aid in this situation is to wrap the dog in warm blankets and towels to raise his body temperature (which should be about 101-102F) and then seek your vet’s help to make sure there aren’t any further damage.
It is worth mentioning that no two dogs are alike, so there is no one-size-fits-all policy regarding the dogs’ tolerance to cold weather. Nevertheless, in general, when the weather outside the house is frightful, it’s your duty as a pet owner to keep your dog warm and happy.
Should You Allow A Dog To Play In The Snow?
Snow is known to be for all dogs; it’s a smoothie, unusual, and an ideal place for hiding his treasures. However, it’s your responsibility to help your dog understand his limits with the white stuff so that he can enjoy the snow and play to his heart’s content.
You may allow your dog to play in the snow but in moderation, not more than half- an hour, with a close eye on him for any hypothermia signs.
Dogs are usually easily distracted; they wouldn’t cut their playtime short unless they are sick. So, for one-time snow play, you can let your dog out without any snow protection.
Needless to remind you that he will get cold faster this way and should be brought inside in a short time to warm up and dry off. But, if playing in the snow is a regular thing, you will need some snow protection such as all-weather pants or blizzard suits.
You will also need to use those cute snow dog boots for long walks on cold or frozen grounds. You can read more about it in our post about dog shoes here. However, if your dog hates them, make sure to trim his nails for better traction on ice and slate his paws with the cold-weather balm when he comes inside to prevent chapping. Make sure to wash your dog’s feet after each snow walk.
Dogs Eating Snow
One of the widespread problems with your dog playing in the snow is eating it. They get attracted to play with it and mouthing it. While you are tossing snowballs to your dog, they break off and melt in his mouth when he catches them. One after the other, he ingests a whole lot, and soon he feels sick.
Additionally, when he starts warming up, he would discover that the snow feels right in this mouth. Then he would begin to quench his thirst by eating snow. Some dogs even like snow more than water; they would seek snow more, becoming an addict.
There is no need to call the vet if your dog licks the puff of his nose, but it will be highly recommended when it comes to eating snow.
Your dog’s snow adventure should be treated, as you would do with your kids. Your dog would be ingesting antifreeze or deicer when eating snow, which may upset his stomach. In some cases, the dog may experience vomiting, which may be a sign of poisoning.
The dirty and contaminated snow ingested by your dog disagrees with his stomach, and the main concern is what is known as rock salt or ice melt. These products contain sodium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium salts, or other urea-based material. These materials may affect dogs and develop severe gastrointestinal upset and local skin irritations to the skin and paws.
Moreover, most people don’t pick up after their dogs in the snow. They assume that the waste will melt away, but actually, it doesn’t. The cold weather slows the bio-degradation process. The remains will stay around until spring, which transmits disease from one dog to another.
How To Protect Your Dog From Snow Dangers?
- More efficient potty time:
Shoveling a patch of grass for your dog’s potty time will be a good idea. However, you can encourage your dog to use any more protected area from snow, ice, and wind. To avoid accidents inside the house, try to use treats to encourage your dog’s good behavior.
- Watch out for rock salt and antifreeze:
Antifreeze has a sweet taste but is toxic. So, watch out for blue or green-colored substances on sidewalks or driveways and keep your dog away from these spots.
Again, wipe off your dog’s paws before letting him inside the house to remove any salt or antifreeze residues that might be licked off. This will warm the feet faster as well.
- Warm your dog up:
If you feel that your dog is cold, cover him with a towel or a blanket. You can even stock up sweaters, coats, and booties for him in advance; if you know that your dog gets cold quickly.
- Protect your dog’s paws:
Use a moisturizer made for cow udders to soothe your dog’s feet if you notice cracked paw pads. You can prevent him from licking it by keeping him busy with a treat or a chew bone. Also, you can use dog boots to protect his paws.
Keep the habit of exercise: remember that idle time can lead to nervous and destructive behavior. When you acclimate your dog to the cold weather, continue his training, and you may let him play outside for some time.
Winter Safety Health Tips
Chapped paws and itchy, flaking skin aren’t the only discomforts for your dog. The winter walks can become dangerous if chemicals from ice-melting agents are licked off of his bare paws.
Accordingly, to prevent the dangers of cold weather to affect your dog’s health, here are some tips:
- Coming out from the cold repeatedly to the dry heat inside the house may cause itchy, flaking skin. So, dry your dog as soon as he comes into the house and keep your home humidified. Also, give special attention to his feet and in-between the toes to remove any snowballs from his footpads.
- Avoid shaving your dog down to the skin in winter; his long coat will provide more warmth. For long-haired dogs, trim to minimize the clinging ice balls, salt crystals, and chemicals that can dry his skin.
Don’t forget the hair between his toes. As for short-haired dogs, consider providing him with a coat or a sweater with a high collar to cover his tail’s base to the belly.
- Wash and dry your dog’s feet and stomach after each walk to remove the ice, salt, and chemicals. Remember to check for cracks in paw pads or redness between the toes.
- Bathe your dog as little as possible during cold spells. Bathing too often may remove the essential oils and increase the chance of developing dry, flaky skin. Additionally, it is recommended to use a moisturizing shampoo.
- Always massage the dog’s paw pads with petroleum jelly or any other paw protect ants before going outside to protect him from salt and chemical agents. Also, booties may provide more coverage and prevent sand and salt from getting lodged between bare toes, irritating.
- Antifreeze is a lethal poison for your pet, so make sure to clean up any spills from your car. Consider using products that contain propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol.
- Your pet burns extra energy in trying to stay warm during the wintertime. Accordingly, feed your dog a little bit more to provide him with the needed calories. Please don’t neglect the amount of water; your dog will need plenty of water to keep him well-hydrated and his skin less dry.
- Frostbite may occur in shallow temperatures, freezing the dog’s extremities (the tips of their tail, ears, and toes). Although this is not usually life-threatening, it may lead to hypothermia, which can be fatal. The skin can become very pale with a blue-white hue due to the deficiency of blood flow.
To prevent it from progressing, apply a warm towel to the affected area, and don’t use a hairdryer or radiator to warm them up directly; this may cause burns and blistering. Tepid water will be sufficient to gradually warm the area until you speak with your vet to check if additional treatment is required.
- Don’t neglect to provide your dog with a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog bed with a warm blanket or a pillow will be perfect.
- Keep in mind that if it’s too cold for you, probably it’s too cold for your dog. So avoid leaving your dog alone in the car during the cold weather; cars can act as refrigerators that hold in the cold and cause animals to freeze to death.
Problematic Snow Exposure Limitation:
To watch your dog experience snow for the first time is a great joy to a pet parent. However, not all dogs are suited for outdoor snow play.
Therefore, experts have offered a few tips to limit problematic snow exposure:
- Avoid exposing your dog to the snow that is treated with ice melt materials.
- If you notice that your dog tends to eat a lot of snow out of thirst, which causes him to vomit, make sure to limit his exposure to this and bring him inside the house to offer him a bowl of water.
- Prevent your dog from drinking from snow puddles where ice melt products could have been used.
- Store ice melt bags out of your dog’s reach.
- Make sure to clean the dog’s paws with a damp towel after walking in areas where ice melt have been used, and don’t let him lick his feet.
- Most experts warn pet owners to use the ice melts claimed to be “pet safe” as there are no regulations to prove their safety.
Snow days are always fun for both you and your dog. Accordingly, following the above safety tips will help both of you spend a warm and happy season. Nevertheless, sometimes the best option is staying inside to avoid the brutal cold and snowy conditions.
Remember, dogs are like humans, young or old, can suffer more in sub-zero temperatures. The same applies to those with ongoing health issues because their immune system is less effective in fighting illness.
If your dog falls into one of these cases, pay extra attention to his welfare during the cold season and ensure that he has a warm, dry place to sleep.