8 ways cold weather can affect your dog

Whether up on the slopes or down at the skating rink, there’s plenty of fun to be had in winter. But if you bring your dog along, be mindful of the many ways cold weather could affect them.

1. Your dog may not be able to handle cold weather.

Not all dogs sport a fluffy coat of fur designed to face our harsh Canadian winters. Breeds with thin hair will be more comfortable wearing an insulated jacket as an extra layer. In any case, avoid exposing your dog to cold temperatures for too long, by keeping outdoor walks and play sessions brief.

2. Snow makes your dog wet.

Snow can cling to your four-legged friend’s paws and fur until it melts and may soak through to your dog’s skin. This dampness makes wind and cold even worse and increases the risk of frostbite. This is another reason to keep outdoor activities short. When you return inside, take the time to dry your dog thoroughly using a sturdy towel.

3. Surfaces are slippery.

Loose snow and icy sidewalks all increase the risk of slipping and falling. Consequences could be serious for an older dog with stiff joints  and limited mobility. Consider having your furry friend wear rubber booties; while not particularly effective against the cold, they provide increased traction and can protect paws from injury.

4. Rock salt can hurt your dog’s paws.

Rock salt makes it easier to walk around, but it presents other challenges for your dog. Crystals can get stuck between their toes and irritate their pads. If your dog is licking at their paws, holding their legs up or experiencing lameness after being outdoors, be sure to check their feet carefully for crystals. When returning from a walk, give your dog a good rinse or wipe, being especially mindful of their paws.

5. Antifreeze is toxic.

Antifreeze has a dangerously sweet smell and taste. It’s also highly toxic and ingesting even a small quantity can quickly become life-threatening. When handling antifreeze, be careful to avoid spills your dog may be tempted to lick (and to clean up any mess immediately). If you think your dog has ingested antifreeze, contact your veterinary clinic urgently.

6. It’s easier for your dog to get lost.

Your dog relies on their keen sense of smell to detect familiar odours and orient themselves. In winter, such smells can be trapped beneath the cover of snow and ice. Dry winter air is also less effective at carrying odours. Without these cues, your dog may have a harder time finding their way back. When going outside, keep them on a leash or within enclosed areas.

7. Winter can irritate your dog’s skin.

When the air is dry from low humidity and indoor heating, your dog’s skin may become dry, flakey and sensitive. Ask your veterinarian if a dietary supplement containing omega-3 fatty acids, could help hydrate your dog’s skin and coat during cold weather months of winter.

8. Your dog’s food requirements may change.

Your dog may spend more energy than usual in order to keep warm, or stay mostly indoors and be much less active. Discuss such habit changes with your veterinary clinic’s staff, to see if your dog’s diet may need adjustment to prevent weight loss or obesity.