8 Ways Cold Weather Can Affect Your Dog and What to Watch For While it's tempting to think your dog's fur coat will provide everything they need to stay warm and safe this winter, they still need a little help from their human companions. As temperatures drop, certain risks increase for your dog. Here are the top ways cold weather can affect your dog, what to look out for, and how to keep them happy and healthy all winter long.
Increased Joint Stiffness and Discomfort
The Reason: If you've ever felt like the cold weather makes your joints stiffer and more uncomfortable, it's not just your imagination. And the same goes for your pup. Researchers believe that cooler, damper weather causes a drop in barometric pressure, which is the force exerted by the weight of the atmosphere. This drop can generate an inflammatory response in the joints, causing the tissues to swell, which then puts pressure on the nerves. Minor variations in barometric pressure should not cause severe pain in your dog's joints, but some discomfort and stiffness might be felt. Another proposed theory for why joint discomfort and stiffness increases when the weather gets colder is that, the changes in the body that are associated with cooler weather can amplify pain signals from the joints. In addition, shorter days, colder temperatures, and harsh weather conditions may decrease the amount of exercise your pet gets in the winter, which results in inactivity that can make arthritis pain worse.
The Solution: Get moving. Whatever the reason behind your dog's increased joint discomfort when the temperature drops, it's important they remain active, even just for a little while each day. If you can't muster the energy to brave the cold to take them for a walk around the block or a quick game of fetch, there are tons of indoor games you and your dog can play together, such as hide and seek. Throw a treat or toy to distract your dog, then hide and call them, letting them find you, and reward them once they do. Another great solution is to get your dog on a high-quality joint supplement which will help with inflammation and provide the necessary nutrients to keep their joints healthy all year round. It€™s also important in the winter months, especially if your dog has existing joint issues like arthritis, to watch for signs of increased pain or lameness, and have your pet seen by a veterinarian if you notice anything concerning.
Greater Danger of Slipping/Falling and Exposure to Toxins
The Reason: During icy and snowy conditions, slippery surfaces increase the risk of injuries due to falls. And while salting is a convenient solution for humans, the types of salt used to melt ice and snow and keep it from refreezing are somewhat harsh for our four-legged friends. These salts typically calcium or sodium chloride can irritate the pads of your dog€™s feet and are toxic if ingested. The Solution: While avoiding slippery surfaces and salted roads with your dog is ideal, dog boots
are a good solution for both. Keep in mind that some dog boots can actually make slipping worse, depending on the amount of traction. Rubber booties, while not very insulating, can provide the traction necessary for a walk on a slippery surface and protect your pup's paws from harsh chemicals and ice. Make sure to remove the boots
after your walk, as keeping them on too long is not recommended. It's also a good idea to rinse your dog's paws and abdomen with warm water as an extra precaution, to remove any ice and ensure there's not any salt they may lick off and ingest. Be sure to dry them completely afterwards so they don't get chilled. Our Walker active boots
are a perfect solution for your dog to prevent slipping in icy weather.
Difficulty Regulating Body Temperature in Sick or Elderly Dogs
The Reason: Low body temperature can affect your dogs bodily functions in many ways, and older dogs and those with kidney problems, Cushing's disease, or hormonal issues can have a harder time regulating their body temperature. A low body temp can affect how well their heart works, cause an irregular heartbeat, and bring about low oxygen in the body or a change in blood pressure. It can suppress the immune system, leading to a higher infection rate and slower wound healing. Cold can also affect the gastrointestinal system, slowing down digestion as well as making it harder for the liver to metabolize medications. The Solution: Keep your pup indoors. As temperatures drop, it's important to avoid leaving your dog outside for extended periods of time. When they do go outside to exercise, let them out for short bursts in which you can monitor them, no longer than half an hour or so. You can also consider clothing. A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn't feel comfortable standing outside in just one layer of clothing, it's likely that your pup would feel the same way especially if they have a thin coat. Consider investing in a winter sweater or coat that wraps around their entire torso.
Increased Risk of Disorientation
The Reason: Dogs rely heavily on their strong sense of smell to get their bearings and know where they are. During a storm or when snow and ice blanket the ground, these smells get covered up and it's easier for your dog to get disoriented. The Solution: Don't let your dog off leash. Even if your pup is usually trustworthy roaming on their own, it's not worth the risk of them getting lost. Limit their outdoor time to leashed walks or enclosed areas.
The Reason: It takes energy to keep warm, and some dogs may need a slight increase in calories once the temperature drops below a certain degree in order to maintain body heat. For this reason, dogs subjected to cold have an altered metabolism, which may cause weight loss. However, keep in mind that not all dogs need this bump in calories, especially if they are sedentary in the winter the health challenges overweight pets face are very serious. You can read about the risks of pet obesity The Solution: Unless your dog is underweight or extremely active outdoors during the winter, it's best to stick to their year-round diet during the colder months. If you notice they are losing weight, you can up their caloric intake just make sure they stick to a healthy weight. If you are not sure about changing your dog's diet, talk to your veterinarian especially if your dog is already on a weight loss plan.
Susceptibility to Frostbite
The Reason: When your dog is exposed to extreme cold, such as when the temperature drops below 32°F (0°C), their blood vessels constrict in order to divert blood towards their core to keep the vital organs warm. This reduces blood flow to the extremities, meaning their ears, tail, and paws are susceptible to frostbite. The combination of decreased blood flow and cold temperature can lead to freezing of the tissues, which causes severe damage.
The Solution: The risk of frostbite is greatly increased if your dog is exposed to extreme cold for extended periods of time, or if the area they're exposed to is wet. Avoid exposing your dog to these conditions. If for some reason they are exposed to extreme cold and susceptible to frostbite, here is what to look out for: These signs may not show up right away, so it is important to check the entire body regularly for areas that seem abnormal. If you do suspect frostbite is setting in, get your dog to a veterinarian ASAP.
Potential Skin Irritation
The Reason: If you've ever experienced dry or cracked skin during the winter months, you know just how painful and irritating it can be. The same goes for your dog. Low humidity and home heating can dry out your pup's skin and coat. The Solution: Add Omega 3s. While we may apply topical lotions or lip balms, the best solution for your dog is to hydrate from the inside out by adding oil to their diet. Flexerna
will ensure your pup's coat stay soft and they remain comfortable in their own skin.
Risk of Being Left in Cold Cars
The Reason: A lot of attention is paid to the dangers of leaving an animal trapped in a hot car during the summer, but the risk is just as serious in winter. In lower temperatures, cars act like a refrigerator, holding in the cold, and this can cause hypothermia and even death. The Solution: If you need to run out in cold weather, it's best to leave your dog at home where you can ensure they'll be comfortable, or take them somewhere they can tag along. As temperatures drop, remember that if it feels too cold for you, then it is probably too cold for your dog. Just a few slight shifts are all it takes on your part to keep your pup happy and healthy all winter long.