Different dog breeds respond to cold weather in different ways. German Shepherds love rain and snow and turn anything into a playground. But short-haired puppies like chihuahuas tend to be heat-seeking missiles eager to dig into piles of fluffy blankets. Cold weather can make your pup uncomfortable at home because they can't get their bellies warm. Here you can find out how you can help your dog adapt to the cold and protect against potential winter dangers.
Avoid these potential dangers to your dog in winter
Like any season, winter presents unique dangers for your pup. Watch out for the following in the cold winter months:
- Ice and frozen water: thin ice is a real danger to dogs and puppies who may not realize what they are getting into. Prevent drowning and hypothermia by keeping your dog away from these areas. Even if the ice is thick enough, your dog can lose control and tear a muscle or ligament.
- Antifreeze: Even a little antifreeze can kill your dog. It is therefore important to keep these items locked away and watch for any leaks. It is also helpful to learn to recognize the symptoms of antifreeze poisoning in pets.
- Carbon Monoxide: Be extremely careful about leaving your dog in a working car while shoveling snow. Check your exhaust to make sure it is not blocked.
Stimulate the growth of the coat
Try to get your dog used to the outside temperatures slowly. This stimulates the coat to become thicker and therefore more protective. Only dogs that stay indoors all the time don’t need to be well protected against the cold outside.
To get your dog outside more often and to ensure that it gets a thicker coat, it is best to start taking longer walks during the fall, letting your dog stay outside for 3-4 hours at a time. As soon as it gets too cold, it is better to limit this time to half an hour. Please note, this is about getting used to the outside temperatures. Exposing your dog to the cold too much is not the intention.
Give your dog a sweater (or jacket)
Puppies are less resistant to the cold because they have less muscle and fat mass than adults. Muscle and fat increase the dogs’ metabolism and keep them warm. Your puppy's coat will not be that thick or long to provide protection. Small dogs have less body mass to generate natural heat as well and they often benefit from a sweater or jacket, especially if they have to go outside for their needs. Teach your puppy or small dog to wear a sweater for proper protection.
Protect your dog's paws
There is nothing quite as stylish as a dog in a sweater and boots! But style, of course, is not the main concern. During winter, the ground can be very cold for your dog. This can cause it a lot of trouble with its paws. The cold can even spread so far that it causes damage. Watch out for small snow or ice balls that can get between the dog’s toes or hair. Icy sidewalks can also be very unpleasant for your dog, try to avoid them even if your dog is wearing shoes. When you get home, it is best to clean and warm your dog’s legs. If you don’t do this, your dog can lick its paws dry and ingest the salt, which can lead to severe irritation.
You can also buy dog shoes to prevent damage from road salt and the cold.
Watch the pet's coat
Pets often develop dry skin, dull coats, and static filled hair in winter because of artificial heating indoors. Ask the vet or pet store if they have fatty acid supplements to counteract the drought effects of winter weather on your dog’s coat and skin.
Combing your puppy can also make the coat static. Instead, you can use a clothes hanger to “ground” the charge and remove the static. Run the long part of a metal coat hanger along your dog’s coat. Go from neck to tail and then along both sides. Avoid the dog’s face or other sensitive areas.
Adjust the feeding schedule
Pets stay warm by burning fuel - the food they eat. They need more calories to generate more body heat, especially when they are out in the cold weather. Puppy food and “performance” diets are higher in calories, but you may also need to increase the amount, especially if your dog is outside a lot. If it doesn't eat all the food in each meal, increase the number of times you feed the dog.