When the weather outside gets frightful, it's a must to make sure your dog stays safe and warm. Your pet is unlikely to whine about the wind chill, so it’s up to you to keep an eye on the conditions and decide when it’s time to come inside and warm up. Use these tips to help keep your dog toasty on the coldest days.
Pay attention to the mercury Down coats, chunky scarves, wooly hats and thick gloves make it easy to forget what the temperature actually reads, but remember that your dog is only sporting what nature gave him, and for many dogs it’s not always enough. “Dogs who have a second layer of hair, such as Huskies and Newfoundlands, can withstand cold conditions, but most breeds don’t have this additional layer of insulation,” says Douglas Aspros, DVM, President of the American Veterinary Medical Association. If your dog lacks this additional warmth, Aspros says to be careful when the temp dips below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s a wet or exceptionally windy day, consider shortening your daily walk, or skipping it altogether and only venturing outdoors for bathroom breaks.
Size up your dog Smaller breeds have a higher surface area to body mass ratio compared to their larger dog park pals, which means they radiate heater faster. If your pup is on the petite side, a dog jacket can help provide protection from the wind and cold. Older dogs with arthritis—whether large or small—should be watched carefully too, since the cold can aggravate the condition and make their joints even stiffer. Bottom line: Pay attention to your pet. If she’s reluctant to go outside on a winter day, it’s probably a sign that she’s not ready to handle the weather.
Feed wisely If your pet’s outdoor time isn’t cut short during the winter, he’ll need more energy to stay warm, so talk to your veterinarian about upping how much food you give him. However, most dogs tend to spend more time indoors during the winter. Be careful not to overfeed your dog if he gets less exercise during the colder months to ensure that he is at a healthy weight come springtime.
Watch the ground Dog booties don’t just look adorable; they can also be a big help on frozen surfaces. While they won’t do much to keep your dog’s paws warm, they will protect him from irritants such as sharp crusty snow and ice that can cut up his pads. If you choose not to purchase booties for your dog, Aspros recommends attempting to avoid these icy areas during your walks and checking your dog’s paws after he comes inside to make sure they aren’t injured. And don’t worry about him getting cold feet: Thanks to their unique circulation system, dogs’ paws are naturally equipped to handle frigid temperatures, according to a 2012 study in the journal Veterinary Dermatology.
Your dog will probably scout out a warm spot to curl up indoors, whether it’s in front of the fireplace or in a sunny patch on the floor, but be sure that his bed is also located somewhere away from drafts. If you have hardwood or tile floors, consider throwing an extra blanket on there to give him more protection from the chilly surface. And when in doubt, an extra snuggle session will warm you both up, no mater how frosty it is outside.
Rachel Morris is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, NY, and fervent photographer of her 1-year-old dog, Ridge.