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How to protect your dog this winter

Two dogs in the snow wrapped in a scarf advice

Protect your dog this winter with these tips.

© Shutterstock

You may think your dog's thick fur coat is enough to keep them warm during the bitter cold and numbing wetness that comes with winter, but your canine companions are just as susceptible to the cold as we are. But there are things you can do to protect your dog this winter when the temperatures drop.

By Zoë Monk

Published on the 18/10/2020, 17:00

Winter, is a beautiful season, snow covers all the trees looking like wonderland, and you get to snuggle in a blanket in front of a Christmas movie. But unfortunately, there are winter hazards for your dog. You and your dog might enjoy walking in a wonderland forest, or playing in the snow but there are things to keep in mind in order to protect your dog this winter.

Dog owners often think that because their pets have a fur coat, they can tolerate the cold weather better than us humans, but this isn't always true. Just like us, our canine companions are used to the warmth of our homes, and the cold weather can come as quite a shock to them just as it does for us. If it feels cold to you outside, then chances are it feels cold to your dog too.

How should I dress my dog in the winter?

It's perfectly natural for us to put on an extra layer during the winter, along with a warm coat when we go outside, so why not your dog? If your dog appears to be sensitive to the cold and would benefit from some extra warmth this winter, then your first step is to decide what they need.

Pup pullovers and coats

There are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to your dog's winter wardrobe. A canine jumper will help to keep them warm, a waterproof coat will provide wind protection or a padded jacket will provide the best of both and help your dog stay nice and toasty. Whatever you choose, it should cover from the bottom of their neck to the base of their tail and include their stomach.

Doggy booties

If you think your dog will tolerate them, dog boots will help to protect your dog's paws from the snow, ice and rock salt that's put on the ground to grit icy pavements. These can all damage a dog's delicate paw pads and cause them to become excessively dry and crack. The perfect dog booties will fit well, be padded and waterproof and be non-slip.

When should I put a jumper or coat on my dog?

Don't immediately reach for your dog's winter wardrobe at the first sign of a chill in the air. Take your cues from your dog and only dress them when it's apparent that they are starting to feel cold. You will likely find that on milder days when it's not quite so cold outside, your dog can go out comfortably without any extra layers. If you do decide to put them in a jumper or coat, just remember to only put it on them when they are just about to go out and take it off as soon as you get home.

What dogs need coats for winter?

Not all dogs suffer from the cold in the same way. For instance, long-haired or double-coated dogs such as the Alaskan Malamute or the Siberian Huskey can cope pretty well in the cold weather. However, short-haired dogs such as Dobermanns and Greyhounds and small dogs such as Chihuahuas and Italian Greyhounds are particularly sensitive to the cold and will probably need to wear a winter coat.

How to take care of dog's paws in the winter and in the snow?

Winter months can be a little though for dogs and their paws. Cold temperatures, snow, rain, and ice can be dangerous for your pooch. Also, the salt and ice melt used on roads aren't good for your dog's paws, especially if your dog starts licking its paws and therefore licking the chemicals. As a dog owner, it is important to protect your dog's paws. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to take care of your dog's paws.

Groom your dog's paws

Make sure you have prepared your dog's paws this winter. Grooming is essential for healthy feet. The hair between the paws must be kept short and even with the pad and the hair around the paw must be trimmed. This will help to prevent ice balls forming between and around the paws.

Use some balm

Apply a thin layer of balm on your dog's paws before you go out on a walk. Once you are back from your walk, make sure you wipe of your dog's paws with a warm cloth as this will remove the ice, snow and chemicals your dog's paws picked up. Then apply the balm again to soothe any irritation.

Dog winter boots

Putting winter boots to your dog is a good option to protect its paws. Dog boots helps to protect paws by keeping them dry and preventing any chemicals to touch your dog's paw pads. Dogs don't really like wearing boots, it is not natural for them, therefore make sure your dog is acclimated to wearing them. Start by putting on the boots for a short period of time, and as you increase the time gradually, always praise them.

How much is too cold for a dog?

A temperature between -1C and 4C is considered unsafe for small and medium dogs. For larger dogs, it's generally between -6C and 1C. Puppies and older dogs will be far more sensitive to the cold weather as they are unable to regulate their body temperatures as well.

If the temperature drops below freezing, then you should only take your dog outside to go to the toilet. If they start lifting their paws, whining or stopping during their winter walks, then it's likely they feel too cold. If they begin to shiver, have pale gums and lips and become lethargic, it could be that they have hypothermia and need to be taken to a vet straight away.

Everything you need to know about your dog's temperature.

Do dogs need protection from snow?

While your dog may want to go out and frolic in the snow, spending too long in very cold temperatures can lead to hypothermia. Watch them closely for any signs of shivering, weakness or shallow breathing. They can also hurt their paws by walking on grit from the roads or slip on ice. Be sure to keep your dog on a lead, especially if it's snowing heavily, as snow can disorientate your dog and cause them to get lost.

Find out more information on how to protect your dog in the snow and ice

Wet snow can also make it more uncomfortable for your dog as body temperatures will drop much faster due to the moisture. Don't let them play or walk on frozen ponds as the ice may not be thick or strong enough to take their weight. If your dog does fall through the ice, don't go in after them. Try to encourage them to swim back to you and then call the emergency services as soon as you can.

How can I prepare my dog for a walk in the snow?

If snow has turned your streets into a winter wonderland, your pup may be excited to get out there and roll around in the fresh snow. But you may end up with an abominable snow-dog with little ice balls clinging to their fur.

Here are some tips for preparing your dog before they leave the house:

  • Trim their toenails to help your dog keep their toes closer together to avoid ice balls getting stuck in your dog's feet.
  • Spread a small amount of petroleum jelly on your dog's paws and between their toes to help prevent any snow or ice build-up.
  • Dress them in a canine sweater and dog booties to stop ice clinging to their fur and feet.
  • Stop your dog every once in a while to brush them off to help stop ice balls forming.
 

What do I do if ice balls have formed on my dog?

If your dog has enjoyed a romp in the snow but returned home covered in snow and ice, here are a few things you can do:

  • Wipe your dog's paws as soon as you get home to prevent them from licking off any rock salt or antifreeze they may have trodden in.
  • If your dog has snow or ice on their paws, soak their feet in warm, but not hot, water, to melt the snow.
  • Use a warm towel or hairdryer on a low setting to melt away the ice off your dog's body.
  • After you've removed the snow from their paws, spread some coconut oil or a dog-friendly paw wax on them to put back lost moisture, reduce discomfort and encourage healing.

Are dogs less active in the winter?

You may notice that your dog starts to get less active and sluggish the colder it gets. Fewer daylight hours and colder, wetter weather also means your dog has fewer chances to exercise. But while both you and your dog may not feel quite so enthusiastic about going out for long winter walks, it's essential that they still get a fair amount of exercise each day. If it's just too cold or dangerous outside for walks, then make sure your dog is still getting enough exercise at home:

  • Play fetch using soft toys
  • Play indoor tug, but make sure you teach your dog self-control to avoid them getting too excited or aggressive
  • Make them work for their food by using a food puzzle or stuffed Kong toy

How do I know if my dog is cold at night?

If your dog sleeps in the same room as you and you find it warm enough, then chances are it's okay for them. However, if your dog feels cold to touch, starts shivering, hiding under the sofa, sitting close to the radiator or curls up tightly into a ball when they sleep, it could be that they are cold. Warm them up gradually by placing thick blankets over and underneath them. If your dog usually spends the night outside in a dog kennel, then you should bring them inside during the winter months when temperatures drop.

Like canine cuddles at bedtime? Find out whether it's okay for your dog to sleep in bed with you.

Protect your dog this winter

Protecting your dog during the colder, winter months is an essential part of dog ownership. The best thing you can do is get to know your dog and pay attention to their signals. If they are lifting their paws off the ground, shivering or whining, bring them inside. If they are showing more severe signs such as lethargy, slowed breathing or weakness, or even frostbite get them checked out by the vet as soon as possible. But the cold weather shouldn't stop your dog from getting exercise and enjoying their walks. Even if you have to limit their walks to just 10 minutes, still try to get them outside and don't be afraid to dress them up if it means your canine companion can enjoy a warm and cosy winter.

Frequently asked questions

Why is my dog shivering?

Can dogs catch colds?

How can I treat my dog’s cold?