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Cold Weather Tips for Outdoor Dogs

Happy white Samoyed dog on snow in winter day

Cold Weather Tips for Outdoor Dogs

Dogs are not as sensitive to low temperatures as their human owners. This, however, doesn’t mean they can be left outdoors during the winter. On the contrary, it is best to bring them inside when the temperatures get really low. But if for some reason your dog will be spending most of the winter outdoors you should take the necessary steps to ensure that he is protected from the cold and stays as  comfortable as possible.

Dogs Vulnerable to Hypothermia and Frostbite As Well

Contrary to common belief, dogs (and other furry pets) are not resistant to cold and prolonged exposure to low temperatures can lead to potentially very serious health problems including hypothermia, a condition marked by dangerously low body temperature. Likewise, exposure to the winter cold over a longer period of time can lead to frostbite. Short-haired breeds, young and older dogs as well as those with health issues are especially vulnerable although the risk of hypothermia and frostbite is very real for long-haired, healthy and well fed dogs as well.

Helping Outdoor Dogs Get Through the Winter

If your dog will be spending most of the time outdoors during the winter, you are recommended to:

– Have your dog examined by a vet. The goal is to ensure that your dog is healthy and free of health issues that can be made worse by exposure to cold such as arthritis for example. Also, dogs with some medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney problems and heart disease, to mention a few, are at increased risk of hypothermia and frostbite.

In addition to prescribing treatment/medications (if necessary), your vet will also provide advice and guidance on how to reduce the risk of complications or worsening of the symptoms due to exposure to cold.

– Provide appropriate shelter. In addition to providing protection from rain and snow, the shelter should also provide protection from the chilly winter winds and of course, low temperatures. Make sure that the shelter is elevated from the ground a few inches and large enough for your dog to be able to sit and lie comfortably. Also, make sure that the entry/doorway to the shelter is turned in the opposite direction of the prevailing winds and covered by a windproof door.

You are recommended not to use any heaters or heated mats because they pose a risk of burns and fire.

– Offer more food. Animals that are kept outdoors need more food to get through the winter. This is because they need more energy to stay warm. In general, most dogs need 10 to 15 percent more food than during the warmer seasons of the year. But before making any changes to your pet’s diet, you are recommended to consult your vet. And ensure that your dog’s water stays clean and unfrozen.

– Clean up any antifreeze spills immediately. Antifreeze is extremely toxic to pets and ingestion of even small amounts can be fatal. To make things worse, its sweet taste makes it very appealing to dogs. To prevent antifreeze poisoning, be sure to clean up any spills immediately.

– Know the signs of problems. As discussed above, hypothermia and frostbite are a very serious threat to outdoor pets. In addition to taking steps to reduce the risk of both health problems, however, it is also important to know their symptoms (shivering, skin turning pale or blue) in order to be able to seek veterinary help on time and prevent complications.

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