How to

20 December 2016

I Foresee Cold Walks in Your Future... Winter Care for Dogs

Are you often unwillingly dragged into the cold? Do you find yourself weathering storms for the sake of a four-legged furry friend? You must be a dog owner. In this case, going out of the house is not a choice, it’s a necessity. Hoping to stay by the fireside snuggled up with a good book and a sheepskin? Well, tough luck. A dog’s bathroom calling won’t wait on idle fancy.  Intimately familiar with snow-filled treks across unsalted walks, it takes a special kind of person to own a dog. Someone who is passionate about the bond between man and beast will venture into the great wilderness for their dog, treating their best friend to winter romps and snowy afternoons complete with an adorable winter jacket and boots. However, when it comes to the cold, make sure to keep a close eye on your dog. Excessive exposure to the cold can lead to severe health issues, like hypothermia. Familiarise yourself with the tell-tale signs of a chilly dog:
  1. Trembling or Shaking can be a sign of nervousness, but also indicate coldness.
  2. Whining, Barking, or Howling are different methods of communication. If your dog has been outside for a long time, this is his way of telling you that he’s cold.
  3. Lack of Energy can indicate hypothermia, given the right circumstances. Bring your dog inside immediately if he seems weak, drowsy or lethargic, has muscle stiffness, or is breathing slowly or shallowly.
  4. Cold Ears are a quick way to gauge a dog’s temperature.
  5. Hunched Back and a Tucked Tail is your dog’s best attempt to curl into a ball, conserving body heat.
  6. Limping or Stiffness can be attributed to cold paws and stiff muscles.
  7. Consider the Conditions because if you aren’t able to bear the cold, why would your poor dog be able to?

Is your dog displaying any of these behaviours? You’d better bring him inside and warm him up stat.

Plummeting temperatures are made slightly more bearable with good preparation. Be sure that the house is a reasonable temperature and that your dog has a comfortable place to sleep. Invest in a good coat or sweater for your dog, depending on his size and coat type. Bigger dogs with long coats are less likely to need additional protection from the elements whereas small dogs can hardly bear winter conditions without an additional layer of warmth. Sweaters can be worn indoors if your dog is especially affected by the cold. Trim the excess hair around paw pads to stop ice and snow from gathering on the paws during walks. Once your dog is indoors, dry any wet patches and paws with a towel.

If you come across a dog left in unsuitable conditions outdoors, ensure that they at least have unfrozen water to drink and adequate shelter from the elements. Dogs aren’t the only animals at risk this winter; cats, rabbits, and chickens are all exposed to chilly conditions. 

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).