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Dog Safety in Extreme Cold Weather Conditions

What Is Too Cold For A Dog

It’s cold in Canada… very cold! Most dogs absolutely love playing in the snow, but for many breeds, there is a limit to how much cold weather they can safely handle. Luckily, there are several things dog owners can do to protect their pups when temperatures drop!

The degree to which a dog can handle cold weather very much depends on the breed. For a list of dog breeds well suited to handle cold weather click here or scroll to the bottom of this article. Generally, dog breeds with short coats and little or no undercoat are more vulnerable in the cold. Also, dogs with less body fat have a lower tolerance to cold weather.

As a dog owner it’s important to arm yourself with as much information to help keep your dog safe when the weather turns. Dogs that become overly cold can suffer from hypothermia, skin irritation, frostbite, and many more dangerous health issues. In this article we will discuss the most common cold weather risk factors for dogs, and how to protect your dog from them! From booties and jackets to balms and oils, there have never been more options available to help dog owners keep their four-legged friends safe!

Cold Weather Risk Factor #1: Hypothermia

Hypothermia is similar in dogs and humans, it’s a dangerously low body temperature resulting from long exposure to cold. With dogs, the combination of wet fur and cold weather can lead to a dangerously low body temperature if the fur freezes. Hypothermia can be identified in dogs by shivering and general lethargy. If a dog’s temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit they are hypothermic.  

Solution:

The obvious solution to prevent the risk of hypothermia in dogs is to reduce their exposure to extreme cold, but as we dog owners know, we can’t simply stop walking our dog in cold weather. Instead, try breaking up their exercise into multiple, shorter sessions depending on the forecast. Rather than one mid-day hour-long walk, try 3 or 4 short, high intensity sessions of 15-20 minutes. You can also protect your dog’s paws with booties and use sweaters or jackets to help protect from wind exposure. It’s also best if you own multiple sets of outerwear to ensure that you’re never using a wet article of clothing that can freeze and make matters worse! If your dog displays signs of discomfort (shivering, lethargy) it’s time to get them inside, these are early signs of hypothermia.

Cold Weather Risk Factor #2: Joint Stiffness & Discomfort

Cold weather leads to an inflammatory response in the joints, this response is caused by the increased weight of the atmosphere as barometric pressure drops. The inflammation causes tissues around the joints to swell while pressure to the nerves increases.

Solution:

Although you might think the answer to joint pain is rest, the solution is often the exact opposite. When temperatures drop, it’s important that your dog remains active; walking and moving during the cold winter months will help keep blood flowing to the inflamed areas. There are also supplements that can be helpful, while a vet may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Rimadyl, Previcox, or Deramaxx, these may come with negative side effects so give the following natural remedies at try first: Turmeric, Glucosamine, Massage and Accupressure, Yucca, Essential Fatty Acids, CBD Oil and Hemp Oil.

Cold Weather Risk Factor #3: Frostbite

Frostbite is no different in dogs than in humans, it occurs when blood flow to the extremities (ears, tail, paws) is reduced from a constriction of blood vessels as the body tries to keep core vital organs warm. Frostbite symptoms develop over time as the exposure to cold persists. Symptoms of first-degree frostbite include pale, hard, red, or swollen skin at the extremities. Second degree frostbite can be identified by blistering of the skin, while third degree frostbite causes the skin to darken over the course of several days. If any of the listed symptoms occur, it’s crucial that you bring your dog home immediately, apply lukewarm water to slowly heat the affected areas, and seek emergency veterinary care.

Solution:

Similar to hypothermia prevention, limit extended periods of extreme cold exposure by breaking up daily exercise into multiple shorter sessions. Use dry booties, sweaters, and jackets to prevent freezing.

Cold Weather Risk Factor #4: Antifreeze poisoning and exposure to other toxins

Ice melts and road salts can irritate a dog’s paws and can even be poisonous when ingested. There are some antifreeze chemicals that dogs find tasty, luckily it shouldn't be difficult to notice and stop a dog from licking ice melt while out on a walk. However, clumps of toxic snow freezing between your dog’s paws can become a potential hazard if they lick their paws after a walk. Signs of antifreeze poisoning are lethargy and nausea, which can lead to seizure and coma, and should be treated as a veterinary emergency.

Solution:

If possible, protect your dog’s paws with booties while on a walk. If you do not use booties, make sure to give them a good wipe down after a walk. It’s best to use a warm wet cloth and focus on the paws and torso.

Cold Weather Risk Factor #5: Skin Irritation

Dogs, just like humans, experience the same irritating skin ailments in the cold winter months. Low humidity and home heating can lead to dry or cracked skin, rashes, dandruff, and dried out fur. Although cold-related skin ailments are generally more of a discomfort than a serious danger to your dog, they should be fairly easy to spot and treat!

The Solution:

While topical oils and balms can help to treat affected areas, the most reliable solution to prevent skin irritation in dogs is through diet. It’s widely considered than many commercial dog foods contain too many omega 6’s and not enough omega 3’s, or “good fats”. Omega 3’s can be found in fish, eggs, meats, whole grains, vegetable oils, or can be taken as a supplement.  

How to Safely Prepare for a Cold Winter Dog Walk:

First and foremost, it’s important to know your dog's limits, do your research and don’t make any assumptions... because not all short haired dogs do poorly in cold weather, and certainly not all long haired dogs thrive in it. A dog’s cold tolerance varies based on their breed, scroll to the next section for an extensive list of dogs well suited for cold weather. Be prepared to shorten exercise periods and spread your dogs daily activity needs out over multiple sessions. Whenever possible, use booties, sweaters and jackets to protect your dog’s paws and to keep wind chill at a minimum. After a walk, make sure to check your dogs paws for potentially harmful chemicals as well as cold-weather injuries (cracked paws, bleeding). Your dog’s coat might pick up toxic chemicals during a walk, so when you arrive home, wipe down their paws and belly with a warm wet towel!

Dog Breeds Suited for Winter:

 

Afghan Hound, Akbash, Akita, Alaskan Klee Kai, Alaskan Malamute, American English Coonhound, American Eskimo Dog, American Foxhound, American Leopard Hound, Anatolian Shepherd Dog, Appenzeller Sennenhunde, Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog, Barbet, Bearded Collie, Bedlington Terrier, Belgian Malinois, Belgian Sheepdog, Belgian Tervuren, Bergamasco Sheepdog, Berger Picard, Bernese Mountain Dog, Black and Tan Coonhound, Black Russian Terrier, Blue Lacy, Bohemian Shepherd, Border Collie, Border Terrier, Borzoi, Bouvier des Flandres, Briard, Brittany, Bullmastiff, Cairn Terrier, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Carolina Dog, Caucasian Shepherd Dog, Central Asian Shepherd Dog, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Chinook, Chow Chow, Clumber Spaniel, Cockapoo, Cocker Spaniel, Collie, Croatian Sheepdog, Curly-Coated Retriever, Danish-Swedish Farmdog, Deutscher Wachtelhund, Drentsche Patrijshond, Dutch Shepherd, English Cocker Spaniel, English Setter, Entlebucher Mountain Dog, Estrela Mountain Dog, Eurasier, Finnish Lapphund, Finnish Spitz, Flat-Coated Retriever, French Spaniel, German Shepherd Dog, Giant Schnauzer, Goldador, Gordon Setter, Great Pyrenees, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Hokkaido, Hovawart, Icelandic Sheepdog, Irish Red And White Setter, Irish Setter, Irish Terrier, Irish Water Spaniel, Irish Wolfhound, Jack Russell Terrier, Japanese Spitz, Kai Ken, Karelian Bear Dog, Keeshond, Kerry Blue Terrier, King Shepherd, Kishu Ken, Komondor, Kooikerhondje, Korean Jindo Dog, Kuvasz, Labradoodle, Lagotto Romagnolo, Lakeland Terrier, Leonberger, Maremma Sheepdog, Mastiff, Miniature Schnauzer, Mountain Cur, Newfoundland, Norfolk Terrier, Northern Inuit Dog, Norwegian Buhund, Norwegian Elkhound, Norwegian Lundehund, Norwich Terrier, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Old English Sheepdog, Otterhound, Patterdale Terrier, Pekingese, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen, Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Pomeranian, Portuguese Sheepdog, Portuguese Water Dog, Puli, Pyrenean Mastiff, Pyrenean Shepherd, Saint Bernard, Samoyed, Scottish Deerhound, Scottish Terrier, Sealyham Terrier, Shetland Sheepdog, Shiba Inu, Shiloh Shepherd, Siberian Husky, Silken Windhound, Skye Terrier, Small Munsterlander Pointer, Spanish Mastiff, Spinone Italiano, Standard Schnauzer, Sussex Spaniel, Swedish Lapphund, Swedish Vallhund, Taiwan Dog, Tibetan Mastiff, Tibetan Terrier, Welsh Springer Spaniel, West Highland White Terrier, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon