Fall and winter are fun seasons to play outside with your dog. Most dogs enjoy crunching through the leaves or plowing through the snow. But falling leaves and snow also mean falling temperatures, and dog owners need to take extra precautions to keep their furry friends comfortable and safe.
Be alert for signs your dog is getting too cold
Just because your dog is wearing a fur coat doesn’t automatically mean he’s always warm. Individual dogs have different tolerances for cold. Some breeds (Akitas, Huskies, Samoyeds, and Saint Bernards, to name a few) are better suited to cold weather. Short-haired dogs tend to feel the cold more than their long-haired friends. Some health conditions can affect dogs’ tolerance to cold.
Your dog will tell you if he’s getting cold. You just need to watch him. Some clues it’s time to go in include:
- Whimpering or whining
- Wincing, limping, or other clues it hurts when he walks
- Heading back towards home
- Trying to find shelter
If even short jaunts out in cold weather leave your dog shivering, consider getting him a sweater or coat. There are different styles and weights so you can find something that will help keep him warm. He may resist having you put a coat on him at first, but when he realizes how much better he feels with it on, you’ll have no more problems bundling him up for the cold.
Take care of his feet
Even though dogs’ paws get pretty toughened up when they’re outside, they can still have problems in the winter. Snow and ice can get up in the webbing between their toes, and stick in the fur between their toe pads. Crusty snow and ice can cut their toe pads. Dogs can even get frostbite. Small dogs with tiny feet can are particularly susceptible to cold feet.
Ice melt can be another hazard to dogs’ paws. If you use ice melt at your home, make sure you get one that is approved for use around pets, or keep your dog off it. If you live in an apartment complex, or take walks on public sidewalks and you aren’t sure whether or not ice melt is used, consider getting dog booties to protect your dogs’ feet. Dog booties also provide some protection for dogs who suffer with cold feet.
When you bring your dog in, be sure to get all the snow and ice out from between his toes. Dry his feet and toes thoroughly. If his feet are very cold, warm them with a towel, blanket, or your hands until he feels like running off through the house.
Short-legged dogs have additional problems
Take special care with dogs with exceptionally short legs, like dachshunds and corgis. Their bellies can more easily drag through snow and ice, causing them to feel cold quicker. Add a short-hair coat, and you have the recipe for a dog who prefers several short trips out to one longer one.
Beware of snowdrifts
Keep an eye on your dog around snowdrifts. He may enjoy the billows of snow as he runs through one. And it’s great fun to take a running leap and jump into one. But if the snow is too deep, he can leap in and get stuck: the snow holds him up and his feet can’t reach the ground so he can’t get the traction he needs to get out. Big, heavy dogs seldom have any problem. But a short-legged, lightweight dog is courting disaster if he’s around snowdrifts unattended.
One of the great joys of owning a dog is enjoying the outdoors with him. If you take a few precautions and are aware of your dog’s reactions, you can have outdoor fun year-round with your friend.
About the Author: Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer (FuzzyFriendsWriter.com), where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently, she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.