By Dr. Judith Herman
Q. There are always articles and warnings about dogs in the heat, what are the concerns about a cold environment?
A. Tis the season for cold and damp weather, and not all dogs are built for it. Even if you have a Nordic breed, there are some precautions to take when your best friend is outside in the cold.
Let’s start with the ambient temperature. The best rule of thumb is not leave your best friend outside if the temperature is below 32 degrees F. I can hear you now, “But we are out in temperatures below that all the time!”
When the temperature goes around 20 degrees F, the risk of frostbite and hypothermia goes up. You will see a change in your dog’s behavior. They will start shivering and seek warmer areas and act sluggish and dull. Frostbite can affect ears, tails, testicles and toes. If your pup has arthritis the cold can make the pain worse.
Nordic breeds, like huskies and malamutes, are bred for colder temperatures, but they need to be watched for signs of being too cold. Wet and windy weather will cause problems for any dog. Characteristics of dogs such as coat type, body type, and size, as well as what climate they are from, all play a part in how well Fifi will tolerate the cold.
To make your best friend comfortable in the winter, remember these tips:
1. If it is below 32 degrees F, keep an eye on your dog outside. If he is curling up in a little ball, he’s cold and needs to come in. Shivering? Bring him in. Lifting a paw? Time to come in. Bring him in at dusk no matter the temperature. If he gets hot in the house, put him in a cooler room.
2. Acclimate him slowly to the colder temperatures.
3. Have a dry safe area out of the wind and the elements. Use straw for bedding and keep it off the ground if possible. This will help keep him warm until you can bring him indoors. Blankets can get wet and make him colder.
4. If any dog gets wet from running in the snow or getting caught in a storm, bring him in and dry him off. A wet coat is a sure way to make your best friend sick.
5. If you have a cold-intolerant pup, you can dress him up in a warm snuggly coat, boots, and even a hat. Watch these guys carefully. Stay outside with them, and don’t leave them out. They can easily get too cold.
6. Remember water freezes, so dogs left out for longer periods of time can get dehydrated.
7. Keep your dog close when walking and check its gait for signs of pain. Stay away from ponds and ice-covered areas. Falling in can be deadly for both of you.
8. If your pup is elderly, has health problems, bundle him up to go out for a short potty break then back in the house. Health problems like hypothyroidism, kidney disease, diabetes, arthritis, and many more chronic issues can be challenging for your best friend when he is outside.
9. Leaving your pup in the car while doing errands can get pretty cold when the heater is turned off. If you can’t leave him home, then have clean dry blankets for him to nest and a coat.
Have fun this winter and stay warm.
Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH
Animal Wellness Center