Dogs need to go outside to get exercise and take care of business regardless of the weather. While many dogs love the cold weather, any dog can be at risk for hypothermia if they’re outside too long. Some things that may affect your dog’s ability to tolerate the cold include coat density, your dog’s age, size, and health status. When you take your dog out during frigid winter weather, how do you know when your dog is getting too cold? Some signs to look out for:
- The most obvious sign is shivering or shaking, which is the body’s way to generate heat.
- Look for behavioral changes–your dog may look uncomfortable or seem anxious. Instead of running around outside joyfully, your dog may stand around, try to turn back for home, or seek a spot that provides shelter such as under a car.
- Your dog may display a hunched posture with tail tucked, or lift his or her paws uncomfortably off the ground.
- Listen for verbal clues such as whining or barking.
- Symptoms of life-threatening hypothermia include weakness, lethargy, muscle stiffness and slowed breathing.
Limit your dog’s exposure to cold weather to avoid the risk of hypothermia, especially if it’s windy or rainy too. If it’s too cold for you to stay out, it’s too cold for most dogs. When trips outside are necessary, take shorter walks and consider investing in a dog jacket or sweater for your walking buddy. Special dog booties will keep your dog’s feet warm and protect the paws from snow, ice, chemicals and road salt. Once you’re safely back indoors, make sure your dog gets dry, warm and any ice or salt from your dog’s paws is cleaned off.