winter dog safety

Safety Tips for Dogs in Winter

Winter can mean skating, skiing, snowboarding, and other outdoor fun...

...but it can also bring dangers for your dog. Here are a few tips for keeping your dog safe and comfortable this winter.

Just because he's wearing a fur coat doesn't mean he's warm.

Yes, your furry friend is wearing a fur coat. But he also wears a fur coat in the summer. That coat helps regulate his body temperature but that doesn't mean he's always warm regardless of the conditions. Just as some people tolerate cold better than others, some dogs have a higher tolerance for cold. Breed, type and length of coat, and size of your dog are all factors, but his age, health, and individual make-up can also effect how quickly your dog gets cold.

Know your dog's limits.

If he gets easily chilled, get him a sweater or coat to help keep him warm. It's also a good idea to have a couple of coats of each variety, so you can always put a dry coat on him when he comes back in after a romp in the snow. If your dog is very small, and/or has short legs, he will likely get cold more quickly since his belly is closer to the cold pavement and snow. Consider getting him a sweater or coat that covers his underside as well as his back.

Take more, shorter walks.

Consider breaking your dog's hour-long constitutional into two or three shorter walks. He still will want—and need—to go out, but he'll be better off if you take him for several shorter walks than one long one.

Cold cars can be dangerous.

Most people know better than to leave a dog in a car on a hot summer's day. But as you know from experience, cars cool off pretty quickly once you turn them off. A cold car doesn't help your dog stay warm.
winter dog safety istockphoto/Kerkez

Keep an eye on his paws.

Cold weather can play havoc on your dog's bare feet. Ice and snow can cut his paw pads. Many ice melts are an irritant. Just the raw, cold weather can cause his paws to chap. Be sure to dry his paws thoroughly when you get in. Snow can collect in the fur between his toe pads and foot pad. Make sure to get all the snow and ice cleared out from between his pads. If he walked on sidewalks treated with salt or ice melt, wash his paws with warm water and dry them thoroughly. You don't want him to lick anything off his paws that might make him sick. If you treat your own sidewalks and driveway, consider using a dog-friendly ice melt. You can also get different types of boots that will protect your dog's paws from all the dangers the come with cold weather. If your dog doesn't like boots, there are salve-type products you can apply to your dog's feet to help protect them.

Keep him on a leash.

Make sure your dog is safe in your yard or on a leash. If he gets loose, the snow can cover up many of the smells he counts on to find his way safely home. He could get stuck in a snow drift. Not only do the extreme conditions make it more difficult for you and your dog to reunite, it also makes it more important that you do so quickly. Make sure he has your name and contact information as well as his name on his collar in case you do get separated. You can also get a lighted collar or a light for his collar that will make him more visible.

Give him several options where to sleep.

Although your dog's favorite place to sleep may be the most comfortable spot in the house for him most of the time, it may be too hot or too cold for him in winter. Give him two or three different spots to choose from so he can always find a place that's just right for him to stay comfortable.

Take his age and health into account.

Older dogs' bodies don't always regulate their temperature as efficiently as they did when the dog was younger. Certain ailments, such as arthritis, can also be effected by the cold. If you have an aging dog or one that you know suffers more in colder months, check with your vet for suggestions on how you can make your old friend more comfortable. Winter can be a fun time for both people and their dogs to play outside and in the snow. Taking just a few precautions and using some common sense will help your dog enjoy his time with you outdoors in the winter even more.

Pam Hair

Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.
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