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Cold Weather Tips For Dog Owners


by Renee Jones-Lewis CPDT-KA

As the seasons start to change, people adjust their routines and plan for cooler weather. It's important to take a few minutes to prepare the four-legged members of our family for colder weather, too.

Make certain to provide proper shelter. If you can't keep your dog indoors during winter months, provide an elevated structure with a door to protect pets from wind and weather. Make sure your dog's house is large enough for him to stand up and turn around in, but small enough to retain his body heat. Provide dry, clean bedding materials such as straw or blankets and replace bedding if it becomes damp or wet. If your dogs sleeps indoors provide him with a warm sleeping area away from drafts.

Be careful around bodies of water. Keep pets away from rivers, ponds & lakes as they begin to freeze. Continue to use caution even when the water appears to be completely frozen. (See Life Jackets)

Keep the hair around paw pads trimmed. Less hair will help keep paws free of ice and snow which can quickly ball up between the pads and become very uncomfortable for your pet (See Clippers/Trimmers). Check the paw pads for small cuts and cracks. If needed, provide your dog with boots when walking in ice & snow, especially if he's reacted to snow removal products in the past. Make sure to clean your dogs paws after walks to remove salt and snow removal chemicals which can be toxic to dogs. (See Pad Care)

Check your dog's ears, tail and feet for frostbite. Frostbitten skin may appear red or gray. If you suspect frostbite, wrap your dog's feet in a blanket or towel to gradually warm them and contact your veterinarian.

Make sure you are providing the proper type and amount of food for your dog. Dogs that are housed outside and those that participate in strenuous outdoor activities may need extra food during colder weather.

Provide adequate fresh, unfrozen water. You may want to invest in a heated water bowl if your dog lives outside. (See Heated Bowls)

Dressed to the K9's
Pets will shiver in response to being chilled. You may need to buy a sweater or a coat for your dog, especially if he is a short-haired breed.

Young and old dogs are more susceptible to the effects of the cold. Keep puppies and older dogs indoors except for short periods of time.

Clean up antifreeze spills immediately. Many dogs like the sweet smell and taste and even very small amounts can be lethal. Consider using an animal friendly anti-freeze!

Don't keep your dog outside in all weather conditions. If the temperature dips too far below freezing it's too cold for any dog, even those used to being outside.

Don't leave pets alone in cars during cold weather. With the engine off a car can act as a refrigerator, holding in the cold.

Information given here is meant to be helpful and/or educational. It is, in no way, intended to supersede, challenge or supplant the diagnosis, treatment or advice of a licensed veterinarian.

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