Monday, 6 February 2012

Cold Weather Guide - Canines & Carers

Keeping Warm I Water & Ice I Poisons I Roads & Pavements
Snow Tips I Older Dogs
 Exercise I Paw Care I Travel I Hypothermia I Frostbite

Dogs and Cold Weather Advice, Information & Tips:
As the cold weather bites down this winter, it’s important to remember that our four legged companions also have to cope with the cold conditions and all the weather can bring. Here follows a handy and informative guide for you and your best friends this winter.

Keeping warm at home:

All dogs feel the cold weather just like we do, how cold it gets depends on your location and home set up. Different dogs have different needs, like puppies and older dogs who find it harder to regulate their body temperature and short coated, thin skinned ones (e.g. greyhounds).
Provide a warm dry bed which is in an area free from drafts. Remember that certain floor surfaces, such as tiles, become very cold (unless you have under floor heating) so make sure your dog is not left sleeping on a cold surface as he has nowhere else to go.

Dog coats or dog sweaters are good for when your dog ventures outside even if just out into the garden and can be worn inside as well-depending on your dog and how cold it gets where you live.

Keep an eye for how long your dog is outside-don’t forget your dog is out in the garden if you have closed the door.

If you bath your dog, avoid letting outside until completely dry all over.

Provide clean drinking water at all times, if the water bowl has frozen (depending on where you keeps yours) knock out the ice and refill regularly, move into an area where it will not freeze if possible. Glass and china dog dishes can crack in cold weather.

If you are away from home, say at work, day or night and your dog is alone at home, what temperature is it going to fall to in your home if your turn down or off your heating, how cold will it be when you are not there?

Make sure open fires and any other heat sources are safe with your dog(s) around.

Different breeds, long haired and short coated dogs, young dog and older dogs will have different tolerance levels to the cold weather. Some dogs have double coats to help them but don’t think that because your dog has a coat he will not feel the cold.

Some breeds are closer to the ground and their bellies become wet and cold quickly when out, this can cause a dog's temperature to plummet.

Dogs don’t like being cold any more than we do!

Water and Ice:

Always keep your dog away from water including garden ponds and canals no matter how solid any ice may appear on top if frozen over – never let your dog anywhere near cold and frozen water of any depth.
There have been many reported cases each winter of dogs falling through ice and drowning, if you are walking your dog near frozen or part frozen water - please keep on leash and away to be safe.


Anti-freeze, screen wash and some types of de-icers contain ethylene glycol which is poisonous to dogs and cats.

These types of chemicals are more abundant this time of year and are extremely dangerous - even a very small amount. Many dogs are attracted to its sweet taste; please remember not to leave any anti-freeze etc. lying around or accessible to you dog(s) or cat(s), keep out of reach at all times.

Seek immediate veterinary advice if any is suspected to have been swallowed or even suspected of coming into contact with your dog (or cat).

Roads & Pavements:

Winter roads - local authorities and others often use chemicals and salt to melt the ice on the roads and pavements, good for us and our cars, but not so nice for your dog’s feet, avoid where possible, as it can irritate your dog’s pads and can be toxic if swallowed.

Rinse off paws when home if walked through.

Reflective clothing for you and a reflective collar and/or collar light is sensible for walks near roads on dark evenings, dim winter days and during snow fall.

Snow survival tips:

Snow looks very inviting for some dogs and can spark off excitement and play, the problem is that snow covers all ground objects including sharp ones and as your dog is rushing through it having fun a paw or nail can easily be caught and torn.

Keep a first aid kit handy for your dog and give paws a quick check after play/exercise outside.

It’s also a good idea to keep note on how long your dog is outside and limit if necessary when it’s cold out, dogs can suffer from hypothermia (see below), just like we do, as an example, playing in the snow caused hypothermia to a dog in Scarborough recently, which resulted in the need for urgent veterinary attention to save the dog’s life.

Snow can become impacted and form balls of ice caught up in your dog’s hair or squashed into between his paws/toes, these are uncomfortable and can be painful, wash the ice crystals away with warm water to help dissolve and dry.

Dogs can become disorientated as they loose their sense of smell and direction when there is snow on the ground which can result in a lost dog. Keep your dog close or on leash.

Older dogs:

Older dogs are less able to deal with cold weather; it becomes difficult to regulate body temperature as age increases.

The cold may affect certain physical conditions such as arthritis.

Older dogs may not be able or take longer to warm up when moved between areas differing in temperature.

A comfy sweater can help keep the chills off your older dog during the night in your house like the one pictured here on our elderly exempted dog Tara.

Keep your oldie warm indoors and be extra careful when out.


Sometimes it's just not worth the risk of going out and routines have to be temporarily adapted.

When you have been out, after exercising your dog, wipe the snow and any ice off your dog with a towel, dry through properly and make sure the bedding area is dry.

Icy patches mixed with snow, or stretches of ice and black ice can be particularly hazardous to dogs and their owners!

A dog running and slipping on ice can result in damage to tendons, pulled muscles and damaged joints etc.

It’s no fun if your dog pulls on leash and you are having difficulty yourself with the ice under foot, which is one good reason to yourself have some appropriate footwear on and be extra careful that you can maintain your own balance and keep your dog under control.

Do be aware that dogs can suffer from frostbite and hypothermia (see below).


Trim the hair around the pads to help prevent a build-up of compacted ice – little snowballs which collect in hair and can be hard to get out; they also make it uncomfortable for the dog to walk. If these have collected up inside the pad and in between the toes, melt with warm water to help remove and gently dry the feet. Keep tails trim, long nails make it even more difficult to walk.

After walks, rinse off each paw in some warm water, this will remove any salt/grit or ice melting chemicals your dog has walked through and prevent it from irritating him later or licking his feet and swallowing the stuff.

Some dog owners use dog boots to protect the paws.

Get into a routine of having a quick check in between the toes and the back of the each paw, look out for cracks and cuts.


Vehicles become very cold, very quickly this time of year once switched off. Don’t leave your dog in a vehicle; it will soon be like a fridge inside.
Plan your journey ahead of time and allow for road delays.
Have a plan in case your vehicle is caught in snow or on icy roads and your dog is inside with you.

Can be mild, moderate or severe.

It happens when your dog’s body temperature falls below its normal range, symptoms include; shivering (a body response to generate heat) lethargy, weakness, stiff muscles, a change in heart and breathing rate, co-ordination difficulty. Collapse and come can follow.

If you are out with your dog, get home/indoors ideally, dry your dog in a warm room, keep your dog from standing directly on a cold floor surface, wrap in a warm blanket, take your dog’s temperature and contact your veterinary clinic without delay.

Your dog can’t tell you he feels cold and can’t warm up-it’s up to you to take charge.

Canine Frostbite:

This is damaged or dead body tissue caused by over exposure to cold temperatures.
Common areas of concern are your dog’s ear tips, toes, scrotum and tail.
Frostbite can be harder to spot under the dog’s hair.

Affected areas can appear pale or grey in colour and cold to the touch. As body tissue warms it turns red and this is painful, black colour indicates death of body tissue.

Contact your vet for immediate help.

Don’t rub or massage the area, you can warm in warm water and gently pat dry. Remember that a dog may display aggression when in pain.

Written by Amanda Dunckley
Copyright © Endangered Dogs Defence & Rescue 2012