With winter coming at full force, many dog owners are wondering if it is safe for their dogs to be out in the cold. Most of us love seeing photos of cute dogs jumping around in the snow and having the time of their lives. However, this is not safe for all of them.
While there are dog breeds built for cold weather, each dog will still have its individual conditions that determine whether it is safe for them to be outdoors during winter. Some of these factors include their age, weight, and coat.
How Cold Is Too Cold for Dogs?
In general, dogs will be fine for temperatures above 45°F. However, any colder than that will cause many dogs to search for warmth. While some dogs can handle the cold more than others, no dog should be allowed outside when it is colder than 20°F.
It is also worth noting that temperature may differ from the real feeling of being outside. Wind, rain, or snowfall can affect how cold the weather really is.
Is Your Dog Breed Fit for Cold Climates?
Dogs with thicker coats like Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, and Samoyeds generally enjoy cold temperatures. Similarly, dogs with undercoats such as St. Bernards, Corgis, and Collies can also thrive in extreme cold. Often, these dogs can retain heat better for extended periods compared to other breeds.
Dogs like Chihuahuas, Boxers, Terriers, and Bull Dogs are not as cold tolerant. With short fur, single coats, and low body fat percentages, these breeds are more likely to enjoy staying at home than running around in the snow.
Another factor to consider is acclimation. If your dog has lived most of its life in a warm climate, it may still be sensitive to the cold when you relocate to a colder area. For example, Huskies born and raised in island countries may not be as capable of withstanding the same temperatures as those who lived their whole lives in Alaska.
Is Your Dog Healthy?
When it comes to being able to withstand the cold, age matters a lot for dogs. For example, young puppies often have coats that are still underdeveloped. Because of this, most puppies are unable to withstand the same temperatures as an adult dog.
Regardless of their breed, senior dogs may have medical conditions such as arthritis, cancer, or heart disease that can become aggravated by the cold. In addition, dogs of any age with hyperthyroidism or hypothalamus disease are prone to feeling chilly, even in normal temperatures.
Be Careful of Hypothermia
Hypothermia occurs when a dog's body loses heat faster than it can produce heat. When left unmitigated, it can lead to disability or death. Some of the signs and symptoms of hypothermia in dogs include shivering, stiff muscles, pale gums, dilated pupils, lack of coordination, slow heart rate, and labored breathing.
If you suspect that your dog has hypothermia, immediately bring them inside. Increase your dog's core temperature by warming it up with a heating pad or fireplace. For more severe cases of hypothermia, bring your dog to the veterinarian immediately. Treatments for severe hypothermia include IV fluids and oxygen masks.
Give Your Dog a Winter Wardrobe
Humans are not the only ones that need winter wear. For dogs that are not tolerant of the cold, winter clothes are a great way to give them extra warmth and protection for a few minutes outdoors. These days, you can find coats and shoes for dogs of any size.
Snow gear is not just great for staying warm. Many towns use salt to keep sidewalks from freezing over, which can be painful for your dog to step on during walks. Dog boots help protect dog paws from both sidewalk salt and frostbite.
Fill Them Up Before Playtime
Dogs are also at risk of consuming poisonous substances such as anti-freeze used during snow season. While eating snow may sound cute, it is not always so safe to ingest.
In urban areas, snow may contain pollution, bacteria, or waste. If it gets mixed up with salt, snow can also cause your dog to be dehydrated. Before letting your furry friend go outdoors, make sure they have drunk enough water and are well-fed so that they avoid consuming anything unfamiliar.
Keep Dogs Away from Wildlife
When letting your dog play outdoors in the snow, keep a close eye on them to make sure they avoid any injury or get into contact with wild animals that may attack them. If you live in an area with a lot of wildlife, make sure that your dog does not come into contact with other dangerous animals.
During storms or heavy snowfall, many car drivers also struggle to determine where roads begin or end. With slippery roads, drivers are also prone to accidents or losing control of their vehicles. For this reason, avoid releasing your dog to play near busy roads or highways.
In their excitement, many dogs may quickly run off further than where you can see. You can also avoid losing your dog by attaching a location tracker on their collars.
Let Your Dog Play Outdoors in the Snow Safely
Before letting your dog out, make sure to check if they are built for cold temperatures and do not have any medical conditions that put them at increased risk. For dogs that are not fit for cold weather, they are at higher risk of experiencing hypothermia, frostbite, injury, or death. If you are not sure if your dog can handle winter weather safely, consult your veterinarian first.
As a pet parent, it is your responsibility to keep your dog safe from any form of harm. It is necessary to understand that even if your dog can handle the cold, there are still other forms of risks such as injury, poisoning, or loss.
Running through snow can be an incredible experience that you can share with your dog. As long as you take the right precautions, there is no reason why your furry friend should not be allowed to play in it.