We have all been there – we step outside in the middle of winter and immediately wonder if we should have brought our dog out for a walk. The ground is hard and frozen and your breath comes out in a wispy cloud. But what is too cold for a dog walk? Are your pet’s paws safe on the frosty surface? Let’s take a look at the facts.
Obviously, not all pups are created equal. A Dachshund, for instance, has a different cool temperature tolerance than a Doberman for example. Then there are dogs that were bred for icy mountainous conditions such as Bernese Mountain Dogs who have a thick layer of fur which provides a naturally warm coat for them to wear. As a result of this, canines with a thin fur coat are more at risk of cold exposure and other harmful effects of a winter chill.
Should I walk my dog in winter?
Yes, you should definitely should walk your dog in winter! Just like humans, pooches benefit from getting out and about, even in the cold. It is important to keep your dog warm and dry and to make sure that they wear a coat on the outside. Clothing needs to be fitted well and it is important to make sure coats don’t get tangled up with leads.
Take care not to expose your dog to extreme temperatures, which could cause frostbite. It is common for them to get snowballs in their fur, which is a normal part of winter weather. You should avoid walking your dog around areas which have been treated with salt or de-icing products. Salt can irritate your pet’s paws and cause them a lot of pain. In areas where there is salt, it is important to clean your pup’s paws when they come home to remove the salt that has built up. The salt can be dissolved in warm water and then wiped off with a soft cloth.
It is also important to check your dog’s paws for cuts and scratches. In areas where there is a lot of ice, it is important to be careful. You should not go out in areas where there is ice unless you have checked it is safe. You should walk your pet on routes that are well-lit at night and where there are a lot of people.
You should also make sure you have a leash on your pet so that you have control over them. You should avoid walking your dog through puddles of water. For example, you should avoid walking your pooch through the puddles that form on the side of the street.
Can dogs get cold exposure?
Yes, they can get exposure to cold and in the worst-case scenario, they can die from chilly conditions. You may have heard of a condition known as cold tail or a sprained tail. Canines cannot get this from exposure to cool weather, this is a separate condition that is brought about by excessive exercise and does not involve the outside temperature in the slightest.
Should my dog wear a coat?
You can also choose a dog coat that has a reflective lining to help keep your pooch warm and visible in the dark and at night. Where can I buy coats for small dogs? You can buy coats at most pet stores, or order them online. The key is to find a coat that fits and keeps them warm. If you’re unsure about which coat will suit your pet, you can always have a look online to see what other owners have used with success.
What happens if you are caught in a storm?
If you are caught in a storm, your pet may become extremely scared and may freeze or be unable to move. If this happens, try to keep them warm by wrapping them in a blanket or your coat and get them to a warm, dry place. It may be best to remain in the shelter until you are able to move and get somewhere warmer. Use your best judgement in these cases.
How long should the walk be in winter?
Your dog still needs plenty of exercise, even in the cold months of the year when it may be snowing or hailing outside. On a really cold day, you may wish to take some precautions, however. On a really cold day which may be dangerous, it might be best to walk your pooch across the street to the closest patch of grass to do his business and then back to the house. If you’re walking your pet for exercise, it might be a good idea to plan a walk during the time of day when the sun is out and the weather is above freezing. If you find you cannot spend enough time outdoors, then please see this vet’s guide to exercising your dog indoors.
Is it too cold to walk my dog? A free handy chart
Here at FunDogFitness.com, we have created an easy to use cold weather chart for your reference. If you think it might be too cold to go outside with your best friend, then it is quite likely that it is. On the other hand, what might feel cool to you, might be all right for your furry friend. It will also greatly vary depending on what breed of dog you have in your house. A small animal such as a Jack Russell will be very differently prepared for the cool than a long-haired German Shepherd who has a natural coat of thick fur to keep him protected against the wind and snow.
Any responsible dog owner will need to perform a risk assessment before he or she ventures outside with their pet dog. It would be irresponsible to take your pooch out in the winter without giving a thought to whether they will be warm enough. The clue here is to see how many layers of warm clothing you are providing yourself with. It is quite normal for your animal to have snow or ice in their lower regions of fur in cold weather. If you have a Spaniel, then you may find this frozen water collects in their wings. If you are having doubts about whether it is safe to take your dog out in the cold weather then please refer to the chart above for your reference.
Emma Charles, DVM, was born and raised in Brownwood, TX. She leads the editorial team at FunDogFitness.com where she shares some of the vast amount of personal and professional expertise she has gained over the years on the subject of dog care. A proud graduate with a doctorate from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University, she now shares her advice online for anyone who owns, or is considering, a dog.