16 Dog Cold Weather Care Tips

The weather outside is frightful but your dog will be safe and happy when you follow these cold weather tips.

By Kathy Salzberg, NCMG | Posted: January 8, 2015, 6 a.m. PST

french bulldog in coatFor those of us who love to ski, ice skate, go sledding and make snowmen, winter weather brings lots of outdoor fun but it also brings some safety concerns for dog owners. Caring owners realize that winter presents additional challenges to their pets.

Follow these cold weather care tips to keep your dog happy and safe.

1. Get Your Groom On. Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can neglect your best pal’s grooming. Dogs need a well-groomed coat to keep properly insulated from winter’s cold, wet weather. If a matted coat gets wet, it can take days to dry. Keep on top of grooming care at home or making regular grooming appointments with a professional groomer.

Winter Dog Grooming Tips>>

2.  The Trim. If you usually keep your dog in a short trim, let his hair grow a bit longer in winter. Keep it well brushed.  It’s a dog’s way of layering. 

3. A Chilly Pup. Short- or smooth-haired dogs may mind the cold more than our bushy dog breed babies, so they really do need a sweater or coat to be comfortable.  Boots are also available.

4. Flowing Hair. Long-haired canines should have the excess hair around their paws trimmed to ease snow removal and cleaning. At the grooming salon, we usually shave out the footpads with a #10 blade to get rid of dirt, ice balls, sand and debris.  If you do this job at home when you trim your dog’s nails, be careful not to cut the dog’s pads while you’re at it.

5. Stay Dry. Keep your dog warm, dry and away from drafts. Towel or blow-dry him if he gets wet from rain or snow. Dry and clean his paws too. In the colder months, be sure to dry your dog completely after bathing before letting him go outside.

6. Limit Outdoor Time. Adequate shelter is a necessity. Don't leave your dog outdoors for long periods of time. Remember that the wind chill factor makes days colder than the actual thermometer readings. 

7. The Biting Cold. Frostbite is a winter hazard for dogs as well as humans. Most susceptible frostbite areas are dogs’ ears, tail and feet

8. A Slippery Slope. Be extra careful when walking or playing with your best friend near frozen lakes, rivers or ponds. Your dog could slip or jump in and get seriously injured and your own safety would be at risk if he fell through the ice. 

9. Feed Me. If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors or is a working animal, feed him additional calories; it takes more energy to keep his body temperature well regulated in the winter.

10. In the Car. Don't leave your dog alone in the car without proper precautions. If the engine is left on, the carbon monoxide could endanger his life and, if it’s left off, the car will get too cold for comfort. 

11. Hydrate. Provide plenty of fresh water. Your dog is just as likely to get dehydrated in the winter as he is in the summer and eating snow is not a satisfactory substitute. Left outside, water can freeze within an hour when the temperature drops below freezing. Many pet stores carry heated bowls for water and food.

12. The Nose Doesn't Know. Dogs can lose their scent-sensing ability in snow and ice so keep your pet on a leash when you are outside and it is stormy.  Make sure he's wearing ID tags with your current info in case he gets lost. Microchipping is also a great way to make sure your dog gets back home if he should wander off and end up at a shelter.

13. Salt Assault. Rock salt used for melting ice may irritate your dog’s footpads. There are now pet-safe ice melting products widely available for use on walks, steps and driveways.  Just to be on the safe side, rinse off your dog’s feet when you return from a winter walk outside your yard. 

14. Warm it Up. Tiled and uncarpeted floors may become extremely cold so during the winter so place blankets and pads on your floors in these areas. 

15. Soft as SnowA soft place to sleep will also prevent calluses from forming, especially on short and smooth-haired pets. Large dogs are more susceptible but any dog that sleeps on hard surfaces can get them. Although they are mainly considered a cosmetic problem, they can develop into pressure sores or skin infections.

16. Winter Poisons. Some of the household products we commonly use in winter are dangerous to our dogs. Antifreeze smells good and tastes sweet to them but it’s highly toxic. Less than 4 teaspoons can be lethal to a 10-pound dog. If you suspect your dog has consumed antifreeze, it is imperative to contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-4-ANI-HELP) immediately. Please note, there is a fee for contacting the poison control center. 

More Cold Weather Tips



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dmdifalco   Fort Gratiot, MI

12/16/2014 12:16:42 PM

Love the tips however would like some tips on activities to enjoy with our dogs when stuck indoors because of the freezing temperatures. In the summer we go for long walks everyday and they play the majority of the day in our backyard. I even bought a children's plastic swimming pool which both of our dogs love however in the winter they look out the doorwall window with sad eyes. Any suggestions. We have a long haulway, so I play fetch with them indoors and I have bought interactive dog toy games.

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dmdifalco   Fort Gratiot, MI

11/25/2014 9:15:07 PM

Thank you for all wonderful tips

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