Winter Safety for Your Dog

Be Safe and Warm in Cold Weather

Dogs in Deep Powder Snow
Franz Pritz / Getty Images

If you live in a region where the winters are cold, then you probably have a yearly routine to prepare yourself for the season change. You might change out your wardrobe, get your car ready for winter, and insulate your home. Don’t forget to take precautions to keep your dog warm and healthy. There are plenty of winter hazards out there, such as antifreeze and ice. Here are some cold weather tips to you and your dog this winter.

Keep Your Dog Warm 

Dogs can suffer from hypothermia just like humans. Just because your dog has fur, it does not mean he can withstand the cold. Though some dog breeds (like Huskies and Malamutes) are better suited to cold weather, all dogs should have access to a warm shelter at all times. Do not leave your dog outside unsupervised without a heated shelter. Most dogs do best living indoors. However, if your dog must live outdoors, provide a heated dog bed and adequate shelter.

Small dogs or those with little to no hair should have sweaters or jackets for protection against the cold. Some of the most common breeds that will benefit from protective clothing are ChihuahuasMiniature Pinschers, Whippets, and Greyhounds. Remember, not all dogs will tolerate clothing, so don’t push it. Just make an extra effort to keep them out of the cold. Keep food and water in a place where they will not freeze--preferably inside!

A heated dog bowl can help outdoor water and food from freezing.

What To Do If Your Dog Gets Too Cold

If your dog is in the cold and begins acting abnormal in any way, get him back to warm shelter as soon as possible. You may notice shaking or shivering, lethargy, or weakness in the early stages of hypothermia.

If these signs do not improve soon after moving to a warm area, go to the vet. As a dog's body temperature continues to drop, muscle/joint stiffness and mental dullness can develop. If you suspect your dog is developing hypothermia, bring him to a vet immediately. Check your dog's rectal temperature. A body temperature under under 99°F requires medical attention.

Protect Your Dog's Paws

Winter weather can cause harm to your dog's sensitive feet. If your dog will tolerate it, consider foot protection booties. This can keep your dog’s paws safe from ice, snow, salt on roads and walkways, and dangerous objects hidden by the snow. Additionally, booties can help give your dog a better grip and prevent slipping on ice. If your dog won't tolerate foot protection, minimize his time in the cold and wash his feet when he comes back in. Use pet wipes or warm water mixed with pet shampoo. You may be able to find paw wax in the pet store that will coat your dog's feet temporarily. This can offer slight protection from salt and may also give your dog more grip on ice.

Use Caution Around Ice

When walking your dog near ice, use extra caution to avoid slipping. Always keep a close watch your dog and be sure he says nearby.

Do not allow your dog to run across frozen bodies of water. He could fall into icy water if the ice is too thin.

Don't Let Your Dog Eat the Snow

Avoid letting your dog eat snow or anything else on the ground. Dangerous objects or chemicals may be hidden in the snow. Also, eating snow this can cause stomach upset and even hypothermia. Always keep fresh room temperature water available at all times.​

Beware antifreeze--it is highly toxic! Antifreeze tastes good to pets, but even a small amount can kill your dog. Though exposure to antifreeze is a risk all year, the risk is especially high during the colder months. Keep your eyes on your dog at all times and keep antifreeze out of reach. If you suspect your dog has had ANY exposure to antifreeze, get to a vet right away.

Heat Hazards

If you use an indoor or outdoor fireplace or space heater, always keep a safety guard around it in order to protect your dog away from the flames and soot.

Do not leave a fire or heater unattended. Your dog may be attracted to the warmth and can come too close to the heat.

When In Doubt, See Your Vet

If you have questions about your dog's safety in cold weather, ask your vet for advice. Also, be sure to contact your vet if any abnormal behavior or signs of illness appear. 

Snuggle Up!

Winter is a great time to cuddle with your dog. Did you know that your dog's normal body temperature is a few degrees higher than yours? Snuggle up, have fun, and stay warm!