As dog owners, we're well aware that daily walks and regular exercise are a must, regardless of the weather or season. Committing to these walks can be difficult during the winter season, especially if you live in an area that's prone to snow.
According to veterinary experts at PetMD, cold temperatures generally don't become an issue for dogs until they fall below 45° F, which is where some dogs might begin to feel uncomfortable. Once temperatures fall below 32° F, "owners of small breed dogs, dogs with thin coats, and/or very young, old, or sick dogs should pay close attention to their pet's well-being."
In temperatures below 20° F, your dog risks developing conditions such as hypothermia and frostbite.
While walking your dog in snowy conditions can be dangerous and requires some adjustments to your routine, following the proper precautions and staying aware of your surroundings can help decrease the risks.
You're going to bundle up before heading out into the snow, and your dog should do the same. While your dog may be equipped with its own fur coat, it's not always enough to protect them from the harsh effects of the elements.
Your dog's specific needs will depend on its coat type. Naturally, dogs with thinner coats will likely need more layers of protection as the temperatures drop, while a dog with a thick, double-layered coat may be more resistant to the cold. Factors such as coat color, weight (body fat), and age can even affect your dog's vulnerability to freezing temperatures.
Whether or not you think your thick-coated dog is well-suited for winter weather, it's best to play it safe and have a properly fitting coat on hand, just in case.
Don't send your dog out into the snow without proper protection for his paws. Regularly clip your dog's nails to keep them at a manageable length, as long nails can force the toes to separate, allowing for ice, snow, and chemicals to get stuck in the paws.
If you haven't already, it's a good idea to invest in some boots or socks, or "booties." Booties not only provide traction when walking in snow and ice, but also protect your dog's paws from salt, ice melts, and spilled antifreeze.
Dehydration can easily sneak up on us during winter, and the same goes for your dog. When the weather is dryer and chillier, we're less likely to notice how much we sweat, while dogs tend to pant more and give off more moisture.
Drinking water before and after walks can help prevent dehydration as well as keep your dog from eating snow out of thirst later on during your walk (more on this below).
No matter how well trained or behaved your dog is, it's important to keep him or her leashed at all times. It can be tempting to let your dog off-leash to frolic through fresh snowfall, but these layers could be hiding potential dangers. Unleashed dogs also run the risk of venturing onto frozen bodies of water.
As innocuous as it might seem, do not let your dog eat any snow. What might look like a chunk of ice to you could contain chemicals such as ice melt or antifreeze. Ingesting too much snow can also lead to a dangerous drop in body temperature.
Keep an eye out for any waste or droppings that might be hidden in the snow, and as always, be courteous and remember to pick up after your dog. Not only are droppings a nuisance, but they are also an easy way for dogs to spread and contract illnesses. Be a responsible community member and protect the dogs in your neighborhood by ensuring you always have waste bags on hand.
Keeping towels by the door helps to keep messes at bay upon your return home. Having a towel within arm's reach will help you wipe off your dog before he gets too far into your living room, as well as help warm him up faster by removing any snow or ice that may be stuck in his fur.
After you've dried your dog off, a Self-Warming Pet Bed will help keep your dog warm and cozy throughout the night. Utilizing the same heat-reflecting technology found in Mylar space blankets, Self-Warming Pet Beds are lined with a layer of material that generates warmth by reflecting your pet's body heat without using any electricity.
With the right preparation, taking your dogs on a walk in the snow can be a unique, scenic, bonding experience only available to those living in certain regions. For days where inclement weather makes leaving the house a near impossibility, check out our article on rainy day dog activities for a list of indoor entertainment and exercise ideas.
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