The weather extremes around the U.S. have proven to be unusual so far for the winter of 2022/2023. You have New England where spring-like temperatures are bringing plenty of rain and leaving ski slopes bare. Meanwhile, in places like Buffalo, in just two storms, they’ve had close to 8.5 feet of snow already. In Central Illinois, another round of wind chills nearing -30 F recently hit.
When there is a lot of snow or bitterly cold temperatures, your dog’s safety has to be a priority. Before you let your dog outside to play in the brutal cold and snow, take precautions to keep him safe.
The Risks of Exposure to Bitter Cold and Excessive Snow
Frostbite is a condition where skin and other bodily tissue are exposed to extreme cold and become damaged. The greatest risk comes after temperatures drop below 32 F, as blood vessels constrict to preserve the core body temperature, which means blood flow to extremities like the ears, tail, and paws reduces and makes it possible for tissue to freeze.
Areas of a dog’s body that are damp, such as the pads of the feet, are even more likely to develop frostbite, and it doesn’t take long. Frostbite can set in in just 15 minutes, but the signs of frostbite may not be noticeable for days or weeks.
Another concern in cold weather is hypothermia. This is a condition when a dog’s core body temperature drops outside of the normal range because they’ve lost too much body heat. If the body temperature drops to 95 F, it can cause the heart rate to slow down, pupils may dilate, and there’s a chance your dog will collapse from weakness. You cannot let a dog’s body temperature drop this much.
Hypothermia can happen quickly in smaller dogs with very little fur. A dog like a chihuahua or an Italian greyhound is not going to be anywhere near as tolerant of cold as a Husky is. Boots and winter jackets can help insulate your pet and help keep the core body temperature up on short walks.
Dogs that have underlying health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease are already dealing with circulation problems. That increases the risk of frostbite and hypothermia even more. All pet owners need to keep their pets inside in brutally cold and snowy weather. When a dog needs to go outside, short trips are important.
Dress Your Dog for the Weather
Protect your dog from wet snow and cold by investing in an insulated jacket and a pair of waterproof booties. Your dog may find them awkward at first, but with time, he’ll get used to wearing them.
As booties keep his feet warm and dry, it helps lower the risk of frostbite and trapped ice between his pads. They also protect against road salt if you ever walk on the side of the road or town sidewalks.
Go on Short Leashed Walks
If your dog is the type to run and not return to your command, leash him. It’s better to take a short, leashed walk than have him outside for too long running in your backyard. If he runs a distance and is suddenly too cold to walk home on his own, you’d have to carry him. Carrying a heavy dog is a strain that puts you at risk. It’s best just to do leashed walks until it warms up.
There are other reasons to stick to leashed walks. If you live near a pond, lake, or river, your dog may venture onto snow-covered water and fall in. That can lead to tragic consequences for him and for you if you risk it and try to save him.
Frozen lines in a car may lead to puddles of antifreeze in driveways and on roads. If your dog laps up the antifreeze or likes to eat snow that has this or other contaminants, it can be deadly.
Pay Attention to the Time
When your dog is playing in your backyard, pay attention to the time. Set a timer for five minutes, and check your dog for signs that he’s getting too cold. If he’s still okay, set the timer for another five minutes and repeat the process.
If your dog has been outside for five minutes, is showing signs of being too cold, and still hasn’t gone to the bathroom, you may need to invest in indoor training pads as a backup plan. It’s not always the most pleasant option, but it’s better than risking hypothermia or frostbite.
Watch Your Dog for Signs of Discomfort
Don’t put him outside and walk off. Watch him from the door or window. Even better, stand outside with him
Monitor your dog for signs he’s getting too cold. If he’s lifting a paw, shivering, whining, or barking to get your attention, bring him inside. If he’s getting extremely cold, his pupils may dilate and he might start acting sluggish.
Warm Your Dog
Once your dog is back inside, have a warm towel ready to dry him off of any melted snow. If his feet have ice build up in the pads, soak his feet in warm, not hot water. That will help slowly raise the skin temperature.
As you dry him off and warm him up, look for signs of frostbite. Red, sore skin is a sign. If you find signs of skin damage, bring him to his vet for treatment. Don’t hope it will go away. If the skin deteriorates and dies, there’s a great risk of serious infection.
Limit the Size of Your Dog’s Play Area
Even if you live in a rural area with no neighbors nearby, limit the size of your dog’s play area. If your dog is free to run for miles, the dog may go farther than is safe. Install a perimeter that keeps the dog within range to quickly bring your dog back inside before frostbite or hypothermia has a chance to set in.
Shovel a path around the fenced area to ensure the dog is able to get out of the snow. If the snow is deep, a little dog’s belly area is going to sit in the snow the entire time he’s outside. That increases the chances of him damaging the delicate skin that doesn’t always have as much fur for protection.
If you absolutely have to leave your dog outside unsupervised, which is common with sled dogs and other working dogs, take precautions to heighten safety when it’s cold. Make sure he has shelter, such as an insulated dog house or dog igloo with a pad that adds an insulated layer between the dog house floor or ground and his body. Use a heated water bowl to prevent dehydration. Make sure that the dog house is in a confined area that other animals like coyotes cannot access.
Pet Playgrounds flexible fences can be installed in the winter. The ground may be too frozen to put the no-dig sleeves into the ground, but you can secure the fence to trees and deck posts to create a small play area until winter ends.
With Pet Playgrounds fencing, you can quickly design and get an instant quote on the fence you need. Enter the dimensions and height of the fence, and let our software take care of the rest. Once you have the final quote, you can order instantly and set up a payment plan if that’s ideal. Visit our site and use the Build-Your-Kit tool to start planning your dog’s safe outdoor winter playground.