Care for Your Dog During Cold Weather

Edited by Witz Taluban, Mian Sheilette Ong, Eng, Lynn and 7 others

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Most of them may be covered with fur, but dogs are still affected by cold weather. Like humans, dogs are in need of special care and consideration when the cold weather sets in. You have to make sure that you know how to care for your dog during cold weather.

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When you know how to do this, you are not only making your dog comfortable, but also safe and healthy. Of course, you need the proper guidance of a licensed veterinarian when you provide cold weather care. Take note that everything in your dog's daily routine will be altered because of the cold setting in. You will need to take the lead and introduce your dog to the various environmental stimuli that will help him or her become acclimated to the transformed weather. Your dog is a member of your family. It is only fitting that you provide the highest level of care during extreme cold weather.

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Canine Cold Weather Care General Guidelines

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Dog owners, because of their busy schedules, often take their loyal companions for granted. They tend to overlook the essential needs of their dogs when the cold weather steps into the picture. Here are some of the general guidelines for canine cold weather care that you should consider:

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  1. 1
    Keep your dog inside most of the time.
    During cold weather, the wind is chilly. This might change your dog's temperature enough to induce sickness. Be sure to take your dogs temperature once he or she is inside.
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  2. 2
    Be more watchful when your dog plays outside.
    Be sure to be with your dog at all times, especially when you have a frozen pond, lake, or river in your area. Your dog could easily slip on the icy surface or step on thin ice.
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  3. 3
    Provide adequate living space.
    It is necessary for you to give your dog a place that is draft-free, dry, warm, and cozy. If you have bare floors, make sure that you place blankets or towels on areas where your dog hangs out and sleeps.
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  4. 4
    Give extra feedings to your dog.
    Your dog will need the extra energy to produce a lot of heat and to perform the activities he or she is used to every day.
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  5. 5
    Make sure you groom your dog daily.
    Your dog's coat should be properly maintained for proper insulation. If you have a short-coated dog, give it a coat or a sweater. For long-coated dogs, remove the excess fur around their foot pads and toes. This allows you to remove snow or debris and trim their nails, too.
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  6. 6
    Never leave your dog in the car alone.
    If you leave the car engine on, the carbon monoxide will put your dog in danger. Turning the car off will expose your dog to an even colder environment inside the car. Just bring your dog with you and never let him or her out of your sight.
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Canine Health Guidelines for Cold Weather

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Your dog's health should be monitored carefully during the cold weather season. Below are some of the important considerations with regard to your dog's health in this time of year:

  1. 1
    Remember that antifreeze is poisonous to your dog.
    Antifreeze often collects on driveways and streets. It may smell and look enticing to your dog but it is very toxic. If your dog ingests antifreeze, it may result in tragedy.
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  2. 2
    There is often rock salt on the sidewalks.
    This is used to melt the ice to prevent slips and falls. Make sure to rinse your dog's foot pads and dry them thoroughly when you get home. Salt irritates a dog's foot pads.
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  3. 3
    Water is important.
    Always fill your dog's water bowl with fresh water. Water is needed to keep your dog's system functional especially since he or she is producing extra heat. Dehydration is an issue during winter. Snow is definitely not a substitute for fresh drinking water.
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  4. 4
    Artificial heating can be a hazard.
    Dogs are curious. If they get too close to the fireplace or heaters, they just might burn themselves. Install a fireplace screen and position artificial heaters on an elevated area.
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  5. 5
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  6. 6
    Over the counter drugs should not be given to dogs immediately.
    Always make sure that you consult with your veterinarian first before you decide on giving any medications to your dog. Medicines that are formulated for dogs and prescribed by the vet should be the only thing you consider.
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  7. 7
    Regular checkups are required.
    Your dog is also vulnerable to many diseases during the cold weather season. Take your dog to a vet as soon as you see something wrong.
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  8. 8
    Frostbite also affects dogs.
    You should always check your dog during winter season because frostbite affects their feet, tail, and ears. Always keep your dog inside to prevent such a condition.
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  9. 9
    Be watchful of your dog's water bowl.
    Change it regularly because your dog might decide to drink water from the gutter or puddles, which are usually polluted with chemicals or contaminated by pathogens.
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  10. 10
    Be considerate towards your arthritic dogs.
    The cold weather can be cruel to their joints. Monitor them carefully, especially when they go up the stairs or jump off furniture. They might be easily injured by sudden movements or slippery surfaces.
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How to Deal with Canine Hypothermia

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Hypothermia is a condition wherein the body's temperature drops below the normal range. It may happen because of the following reasons:

  • Your dog spends too much time out in the cold.
  • Your dog has a poor state of health.
  • Your dog's circulation is exposed to cold temperatures.

Watch out for the following signs and symptoms of hypothermia:

Once these symptoms are shown, you should immediately wrap your dog up in a blanket with a hot water bottle that is wrapped up in a separate towel. Bring your dog to the vet so that warm fluids can be given through an IV line.

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  • Decreased respiratory rate
  • Depression
  • Generalized weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Stiffening of the muscles
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Shivering
  • Unresponsiveness to stimuli

Canine Safety Guidelines for Cold Weather

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The cold weather season is also the holiday season. It is your responsibility, as the responsible pet parent, to make your dog's environment as safe as possible. The following are some safety guidelines during this festive season:

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  1. 1
    Keep the poinsettia, mistletoe, and holly unreachable.
    These plants are poisonous to dogs. Let them stay clear away from these harmless-looking holiday plants.
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  2. 2
    Make sure that your dog gifts are reviewed well.
    These items should not be dangerous to your dog. Small rawhide or plastic parts may cause your dog to choke or end up with gastrointestinal tract obstruction.
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  3. 3
    Stay away from delicate glass ornaments.
    These items easily break and may injure your dog's foot pads or mouth.
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  4. 4
    Reposition your holiday lights.
    Place them on a much higher part of your tree. These lights tend to be hot and they might just burn your dog.
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  5. 5
    Place wires and cables in areas that are unreachable to your dog.
    Dogs love to chew. Prevent them from being electrocuted or shocked by being careful with electrical items.
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  6. 6
    Do not use edible or fragrant ornaments.
    Edible ornaments may cause your dog to knock your Christmas tree over. Fragrant ornaments usually have toxic ingredients that are dangerous to dogs. Your dog just might find them edible.
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  7. 7
    Never leave your dog alone with your Christmas tree or other decorations.
    The needles (natural or plastic) are indigestible and sharp. Tinsel will result in GI blockage.
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  8. 8
    Keep a normal routine during the holidays.
    Changing your routine abruptly will stress out your dog. Try to keep everything the way it has always been. Dogs, too, are creatures of routine.
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  9. 9
    Do not leave chocolates and alcohol in reach of your dog.
    These are very unhealthy and toxic.
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Considerations in Keeping Your Dog Outside During Cold Weather

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Unfortunately, not all dog owners let their dogs stay inside the house, even during cold weather season. Below are some considerations to take if you want to keep your dog safe, comfortable, and secure, when he or she stays outside:

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  1. 1
    Choose the right location for the shelter.
    You should carefully look for an area in your yard where your dog won't get too smothered with snow and cold winds. It should be a dry place, away from mud or stagnant water. This is where you will build his or her shelter for the season.
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  2. 2
    Be sure of the correct dimensions.
    When you procure a shelter for your dog, the dimensions should not place your dog in a very limited and confined space. The shelter's ceiling should be two to three inches higher than your dog's tallest part when he or she is sitting. The floor space should have 36 inches per inch of your dog's height, from the shoulder to the foot pads. An example would be a dog that's 20 inches tall should have 720 inches of floor space.
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  3. 3
    Keep the shelter protected from the elements.
    You should make sure that your dog's shelter is not going to be saturated by snow or exposed to strong winds. The entrance should face south or east. Do not place the entrance at the center of the shelter so that your dog could find a corner to curl up in. This will also protect him or her from drafts and any amount of precipitation.
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  4. 4
    Place a nesting box inside.
    This is to hold your dog's bedding in one corner of the shelter. The bedding should always be clean. You could place a bag (filled with pine shavings, cedar, straw, or newspapers) under the bedding. Replace the stuffing and wash the bag regularly.
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  5. 5
    Construct an elevated roof.
    This will allow you to clean the shelter a lot easier. It will also allow proper ventilation.
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  6. 6
    Extend the roof line over the entrance.
    This is to make sure that your dog has shade when needed. It also protects the entrance from rain or snow. Make sure to cover the entrance with a canvas flap or baffle during cold weather to keep the wind and snow out. The roof should also have proper drainage away from the shelter.
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  7. 7
    Do not make the shelter too spacious.
    The outside shelter during the cold weather season is a place to sleep and relax. A building just the right size will allow your dog's body heat to surround him and keep him warm.
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  8. 8
    Paint the shelter in a dark color.
    As you know, dark colors absorb heat. If you plan to use the shelter during the summer as well, try a neutral color like green. Also, consider a roof that you can interchange. Paint it white on one side for the summer and black on the other for winter.
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  9. 9
    Install a protected light bulb in your dog's shelter.
    This will provide extra heating.
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  10. 10
    Anchor the food and water bowls.
    This will prevent food and water from spilling.
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How to Engage Your Dog in Cold Weather Exercise

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Exercise is valuable to you and to your dogs. The cold weather outside should not be a reason for them not to go out and burn some calories. Here are some of the ways that you can exercise your dog in cold weather:

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  1. 1
    Make sure that your dog's body is appropriately protected.
    See if you have a dog of a breed that can tolerate very cold weather such, as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, or Huskies. These breeds grow thicker coats as they are in cold weather all the time. If your dogs have short hair or no hair at all, it's better to protect them with jackets and coats before walking them outside. Turtleneck styles are best.
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  2. 2
    Protect your dog's feet as well.
    It would be better to have your dog wear booties when you walk him or her in cold weather or snow. The booties will do a great job protecting your dog's foot pads against snow and debris. They will also help regulate your dog's temperature during the cold walk outside.
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  3. 3
    Give your dog more food.
    After you exercise your dogs, provide more food so that they can produce more heat without wasting away their stored fat. Extra calories will also keep their coats healthy and thick.
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  4. 4
    Groom your dog well before going out.
    See to it that you dry off your dog well after a bath before you go out for a cold weather walk. This will make your dog's temperature stable.
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  5. 5
    Do not leave your dog unattended outside.
    Always be with your dog to prevent him or her from being lost. It will be very difficult for dogs to survive out there alone without shelter, food, or the warmth and protection of their families.
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  6. 6
    Consider doggie daycare.
    If you don't have that much time to exercise your dog everyday, consider placing them in doggie daycare until you are home. This is a safe place for them to be mentally and physically stimulated.
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It's always good to know that your dog enjoys the cold weather as much as you do. Make sure that your dog is safe, healthy, and happy, even if it is very cold. Cold weather can be as stressful as hot weather, so you have to know what to do when it comes to taking good care of your dog.

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Tips

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  • Decrease your dog's food consumption if he or she is not that active during cold weather.
  • If you have a dog that has joint ailments, just keep him or her warm inside your house.
  • Newborn puppies are very sensitive to the cold. They do not shiver enough and they lack the fat to insulate themselves. It is imperative to keep them warm at all times.
  • Geriatric dogs have less muscle mass (for shivering) to raise their body temperature. Make sure that they eat well and have extra warmth.
  • Add more fat to your dog's food during the cold weather season.
  • Add warm water into your lactating dog's food to make sure they don't become dehydrated.

Questions and Answers

At what temperature does cold weather affect a dog so that it needs a dog coat?

Dogs' adaptability to cold temperatures differs from breed to breed. There are dogs that can cope easily with a very low temperature, while some dogs need more protection against cold, like a dog coat. Small dogs, short-haired dogs and the older ones need coats. Too thick coats may cause heatstroke, so be mindful.

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This will depend on the type of dog you have for some dogs have a heavier coat of fur on them which will allow them to withstand the cold longer than another dog. Please give the name of your dog in order for me to give you the best information to your specific situation.

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Can dogs burn themselves on a fireplace?

Yes, dogs can burn themselves on a fireplace if they get too close. They can get curious about the blaze, so keep them away from the hearth as much as possible.

It is possible for anything can happen but naturally dogs will feel the heat and do their best to say away from the fireplace as to not burn themselves by the fire. I owned plenty of dogs around the fireplace and never had a problem with my dog burning themselves.

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Does a dog house really help a dog in cold weather?

Yes, a doghouse can help a dog during cold weather, provided it is well insulated. The floor area should be several inches up from the ground. Too big of a doghouse may not be good to keep the dog warm. The heat from its body warms the doghouse, so keeping it in a bigger space like the garage may not provide the dog with needed warmth.

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Yes, a dog house is very essential to keeping your dog warm and comfortable during the winter. In fact in most states, if the winter is bad and your dog is not provided shelter, you can be fined or have the dog taken from you. Now the doghouse itself may help hold some heat in, but its mostly going to block wind and rain. In order to help keep them warm you can lay blankets down on the bottom and maybe even insulate it with straw underneath the blankets. Many people think the dog will be fine because they have fur, but even the hairiest of dogs can die of exposure if it gets cold enough.

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How to clean a dog during cold weather?

The Traditional Dog Bathing/Cleaning Method:

Like humans, dogs also feel cold whenever they take a bath during cold weather. You have to be considerate of your dog if you want to bathe him or her. Your dog can also get sick from taking a bath in a cold weather. Nonetheless, you do not want your dog to smell bad and have an oily fur, as you cuddle him or her, and you can still bathe your dog only if you know how to do it. In this section, you will learn a traditional way as well as a modern way to clean or bathe your dog during cold weather.

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    • Place a rubber mat in your bathtub in order to protect your dog from slipping. Gather a washcloth, a large cup, a towel, and dog shampoo and place them within your reach. If it is windy and cold, turn on a space heater in your bathroom. Before you bathe your dog, allow the room to warm up first, so that he or she will not feel cold.
    • Brush your dog's hair first to remove any debris and loose hair. Brush out all tangles in his or her hair. Do not wet your dog yet, as the hair will become harder to brush. Also, it will be more difficult to remove any loose hair and debris.
    • Place cotton balls in both of his or her ears in order to avoid ear infections due to excessive moisture. The cotton balls will also protect his or her ears from the harsh dog shampoo.
    • Drop mineral oil into your dog's eyes. The oil will protect his or her eyes from the shampoo and will prevent a burning sensation while taking a bath.
    • Fill the bathtub with lukewarm water. Make sure that you fill it up to your dog's knees.
    • Dip the large cup into the water and pour it over your dog to wet his or her hair thoroughly. Apply the dog shampoo to his or neck and lather it, working your way towards his or her tail. Massage the shampoo from the hair to the skin deeply and thoroughly.
    • Use a sponge to clean your dog's whole face and ears. Rinse your dog with an ample amount of clean water. Drain the water and rinse your dog once more, to wash out all traces of the shampoo. Rinsing him twice can also prevent him or her from itching.
    • Take your dog out of your bathtub and then towel dry him or her thoroughly. Do not forget to remove the cotton balls from his or her ears.
    • Turn on a hair dryer at a warmest heat and use it to dry him or her completely. Now, you are done!
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  • Here, you will be using a waterless dog bath. This is a leave-on foam dog shampoo, which eliminates the need to get your precious dog wet during bath time. You can buy a waterless dog bath foam shampoo at the nearest pet shop.
    • Comb all debris and tangles from your dog's hair first. Again, place a rubber mat in the bottom of the bathtub to protect your dog from slipping.
    • Pour some waterless shampoo into your hands and apply it to your dog's fur. Massage it in thoroughly.
    • Brush the excess shampoo out of your dog's hair and then remove him or her from the bathtub.
    • Now, you are done! Your dog will now smell fresh, feel warm and be clean.

If it is cold outside it is better for you to clean your dog indoors. You can use warm water if you like but just ensure that after you are done bathing the dog you allow it to completely dry while in doors as to not place the soaking wet dog back outside to catch a cold or get sick.

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What are guidelines for exposure of dogs in this cold weather?

As much as possible keep your dog indoors. If your dog wants to play outside, keep him clothed. Cover your dog while he is asleep. Artificial heating is good only up to a certain limit. If your dog wants to play out then, cloth him well. Use dog sweaters and dog jackets to keep him covered. Do not let him play outside for a long time. If he insists, make an outside like play area for him at home itself.

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Things to do to prevent canine dehydration in cold temperatures?

To prevent canine dehydration in cold temperatures, make sure that there is a clean water bowl that is accessible to your dog. Refill the water bowl as often as needed.

Do not overfeed the dog during winter because this will make him sluggish and lazy to drink water from his water bowl.

You have to observe your dog for early signs of dehydration like dry mouth and loss of appetite. If this happens, you have to bring your dog to a vet.

My dog needs a bath but the weather is cold what can I use to help get rid of his smell?

My dog needs a bath but the weather is cold what can I use to help get rid of his smell.

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