Dog Safety in Extreme Cold Weather Conditions
The degree to which a dog can handle cold weather very much depends on the breed. Generally, dog breeds with short coats and little or no undercoat are more vulnerable in the cold. Also, dogs with less body fat have a lower tolerance to cold weather.
It’s cold in Canada... very cold! Most dogs absolutely love playing in the snow, but for many breeds, there is a limit to how much cold weather they can safely handle. Luckily, there are several things dog owners can do to protect their pups when temperatures drop!
The degree to which a dog can handle cold weather very much depends on the breed. For a list of dog breeds well suited to handle cold weather click here or scroll to the bottom of this article. Generally, dog breeds with short coats and little or no undercoat are more vulnerable in the cold. Also, dogs with less body fat have a lower tolerance to cold weather.
As a dog owner it’s important to arm yourself with as much information to help keep your dog safe when the weather turns. Dogs that become overly cold can suffer from hypothermia, skin irritation, frostbite, and many more dangerous health issues. In this article we will discuss the most common coldweather risk factors for dogs, and how to protect your dog from them! From booties and jackets to balms and oils, there have never been more options available to help dog owners keep their four-legged friends safe!
Risk Factor #1: Hypothermia
Hypothermia is similar in dogs and humans, it’s a dangerously low body temperature resulting from exposure to cold. With dogs the combination of wet fur and cold weather can lead to a dangerously low body temperature if the fur freezes. Hypothermia can be identified in dogs by shivering and general lethargy. If a dog’s temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit they are hypothermic.
The obvious solution to prevent the risk of hypothermia in dogs is to reduce their exposure to extreme cold, but as we dog owners know, we can’t simply stop walking our dog in cold weather. Instead, try breaking up their exercise into multiple, shorter sessions depending on the forecast. Rather than one mid-day hour-long walk, try 3 or 4 short, high intensity sessions of 15-20 minutes. You can also protect your dog’s paws with booties and use sweaters or jackets to help protect from wind exposure. It’s also best if you own multiple sets of outerwear to ensure that you’re never using a wet article of clothing that can freeze and make matters worse! If your dog displays signs of discomfort (shivering, lethargy) it’s time to get them inside, these are early signs of hypothermia.
Risk Factor #2: Frostbite
Frostbite is no different in dogs than it is in humans, when blood flow to the extremities (ears, tail, paws) is reduces from a constriction of blood vessels as the body tries to keep core vital organs warm. Frostbite symptoms develop over time as the exposure to cold continues. Symptoms of first-degree frostbite include pale, hard, red, or swollen skin at the extremities. Second degree frostbite can be identified by blistering of the skin. Finally, third degree frostbite causes the skin to darken over the course of several days. If any of the listed symptoms occur, it’s crucial that you bring your dog home immediately, apply lukewarm water to slowly heat the affected areas, and seek emergency veterinary care.
Similar to hypothermia prevention, limit extended periods of extreme cold exposure by breaking up daily exercise into multiple shorter sessions. Use dry booties, sweaters, and jackets to prevent freezing.
Risk Factor #3: Joint Problems
Cold weather leads to an inflammatory response in the joints, this response is caused by the increased weight of the atmosphere as barometric pressure drops. The inflammation causes tissues around the joints to swell while pressure to the nerves increases.
Although you might think that the answer to joint pain is to rest, the solution is in fact the opposite. When temperatures drop, it’s important that your dog remains active. Walking and moving during the cold winter months will help keep blood flowing to the inflamed areas. There are also supplements that can be helpful, while a vet may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Rimadyl, Previcox, or Deramaxx, these may come with negative side effects so try the following natural remedies first: Turmeric, Glucosamine, Massage and Accupressure, Yucca, Essential Fatty Acids, CBD Oil and Hemp Oil.
Risk Factor #4: Anti-Freeze & other Poisonous Toxins
Ice melts and road salts can irritate a dog’s paws and sometimes are even poisonous when ingested. There are some antifreeze chemicals that dogs find tasty, but it should be easy to notice and stop a dog from licking ice meltwhile out on a walk. However, clumps of toxic snow freezing between your dog’s paws can become a potential hazard if they lick their paws after a walk. Signs of antifreeze poisoning are lethargy and nausea, which can lead to seizure and coma, and should be treated as a veterinary emergency.
If possible, protect your dog’s paws with booties while on a walk. If you do not use booties, make sure to give them a good wipe down after a walk. It’s best to use a warm wet cloth and focus on the paws and torso.
Risk Factor #5: Skin Irritation
Dogs, just like humans, experience the same irritating skin ailments in the cold winter months. Low humidity and home heating can lead to dry or cracked skin, rashes, dandruff, and dried out fur. Although cold-related skin ailments are generally more of a discomfort than a serious danger to your dog, they should be fairly easy to spot and treat!
While topical oils and balms can help to treat affected areas, the most reliable solution to prevent skin irritation in dogs is through diet. It’s widely considered than many commercial dog foods contain too many omega 6’s and not enough omega 3’s, or “good fats”. Omega 3’s can be found in fish, eggs, meats, whole grains, vegetable oils, or can be taken as a supplement.
How to Safely Prepare for a Cold Winter Dog Walk:
First and foremost, it’s important to know your dogs limits, do your research and don’t make any assumptions because not all short haired dogs bad in the cold and not all long haired dogs are built for it. A dog’s cold tolerance varies based on their breed, scroll to the bottom of this article for a list of dogs well suited for cold weather. Be prepared to shorten exercise periods and spread your dogs daily needs out over multiple sessions. Whenever possible, use booties, sweaters and jackets to protect your dog’s paws and to keep wind chill at a minimum. After a walk, make sure to check your dogs paws for potentially harmful chemicals as well as cold-weather injuries (cracked paws, bleeding). Your dog’s coat might pick up toxic chemicals during a walk, so when you arrive home, wipe down their paws and belly with a warm wet towel!
Dog breeds well suited for the winter:
Afghan Hound, Akbash, Akita, Alaskan Klee Kai, Alaskan Malamute, American English Coonhound, American Eskimo Dog, American Foxhound, American Leopard
Hound, Anatolian Shepherd Dog, Appenzeller Sennenhunde, Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog, Barbet, Bearded Collie,
Bedlington Terrier, Belgian Malinois, Belgian Sheepdog, Belgian Tervuren, Bergamasco Sheepdog, Berger Picard, Bernese Mountain Dog, Black and Tan Coonhound, Black Russian Terrier, Blue Lacy, Bohemian Shepherd, Border Collie, Border Terrier, Borzoi, Bouvier des Flandres, Briard, Brittany, Bullmastiff, Cairn Terrier, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Carolina Dog, Caucasian Shepherd Dog, Central AsianShepherd Dog, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Chinook, Chow Chow, Clumber Spaniel,
Cockapoo, Cocker Spaniel, Collie, Croatian Sheepdog, Curly-Coated Retriever, Danish-Swedish Farmdog, Deutscher Wachtelhund, Drentsche Patrijshond, Dutch
Shepherd, English Cocker Spaniel, English Setter, Entlebucher Mountain Dog, Estrela Mountain Dog, Eurasier, Finnish Lapphund, Finnish Spitz, Flat-Coated Retriever, French Spaniel, German Shepherd Dog, Giant Schnauzer, Goldador, Gordon Setter, Great Pyrenees, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Hokkaido, Hovawart, Icelandic Sheepdog, Irish Red And White Setter, Irish Setter, Irish Terrier, Irish WaterSpaniel, Irish Wolfhound, Jack Russell Terrier, Japanese Spitz, Kai Ken, Karelian Bear
Dog, Keeshond, Kerry Blue Terrier, King Shepherd, Kishu Ken, Komondor, Kooikerhondje, Korean Jindo Dog, Kuvasz, Labradoodle, Lagotto Romagnolo,
Lakeland Terrier, Leonberger, Maremma Sheepdog, Mastiff, Miniature Schnauzer, Mountain Cur, Newfoundland, Norfolk Terrier, Northern Inuit Dog, Norwegian
Buhund, Norwegian Elkhound, Norwegian Lundehund, Norwich Terrier, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Old English Sheepdog, Otterhound, Patterdale Terrier, Pekingese, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen, Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Pomeranian, Portuguese Sheepdog, Portuguese Water Dog, Puli, Pyrenean Mastiff, Pyrenean Shepherd, Saint Bernard, Samoyed, Scottish
Deerhound, Scottish Terrier, Sealyham Terrier, Shetland Sheepdog, Shiba Inu, Shiloh Shepherd, Siberian Husky, Silken Windhound, Skye Terrier, Small Munsterlander Pointer, Spanish Mastiff, Spinone Italiano, Standard Schnauzer, Sussex Spaniel, Swedish Lapphund, Swedish Vallhund, Taiwan Dog, Tibetan Mastiff, Tibetan Terrier, Welsh Springer Spaniel, West Highland White Terrier, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon