Humans often underestimate how the cold affects dogs. Many believe dogs have an uncanny ability to adapt to inclement weather without much help. In reality, cold weather can create uncomfortable and dangerous conditions for dogs. They rely on their beloved humans to remain safe and comfortable during cold months.
Always keep fresh water available. This goes for any season and any temperature. In cold weather, check outside dishes often for frozen water. To slow or prevent freezing, add warm (not hot) water to dishes.
During cold months, some dogs may need more, different, or even less food than usual. This depends on how much time they spend in the cold and how much exercise they get.
Keeping warm burns calories and those outside pups may need more or different food to keep healthy. On the other hand, inside dogs, and those exercised less in winter than in the warmer months, may need less food than usual. It’s always best to discuss your pet’s specific needs with a veterinarian.
Cold and blustery weather doesn’t mean you must skip out on fitness. Whenever possible, take walks during the warmest parts of cold days. Protect pet’s feet from cold pavement and ice melt with booties. Small dogs, thin breeds, short-haired dogs, and sick or elderly dogs should wear sweaters for protection from the elements. On days that see extreme cold, skip the walks and play indoors.
The best shelter for dogs during the cold is inside your home with you. However, for dogs that spend much of their time outside, a proper shelter is important. Doghouses should be insulated and the ground padded with straw and/or bedding, towels, or blankets. They should be large enough for dogs to easily move around and lay down in, but not too large that it can’t retain heat. Heating pads can cause serious burns. If you use them, opt for those designed specifically for dogs and use only under supervision.
Never leave a pet alone in the car, period. It is particularly dangerous in cold months (as it is in hot months). Pets can quickly succumb to the cold when left in the car. Those that are used to spending most of their time in the warmth of the indoors have an increased risk.
Antifreeze, even a small amount, is deadly to pets. Keep an eye out on your garage floor or driveway, and clean up any leaks. Immediately clean any spilled fluid when topping off your vehicle, and keep bottles out of pets’ reach and on a stable surface.
Dogs still get funky in winter and need their regular baths. Bathe dogs indoors and keep them there until they are fully dry.
Cold weather takes a toll on dogs suffering from arthritis and joint pain. Watch for signs of joint pain. These can include limited mobility, difficulty rising or unwillingness to rise, a stiff gait, or wincing. Talk to your veterinarian about supplements, lifestyle changes, and treatments such as laser therapy for joint pain.
Like us, dogs need protection from harsh weather. With a little extra attention and proper food, water, shelter, and exercise, your dog will remain safe, healthy, and happy throughout the cold months.