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5 Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe This Winter

Posted by Jason Hernandez on

With the winter season upon us, use these 5 tips to keep your dog safe, happy and healthy despite the cold weather.

  1. Protect Those Paws

Most of us dog lovers have likely seen the series of YouTube videos showing dogs trying to walk in booties for the first time. While hilarious (the struggle is real!), the videos do beg the question - should my dog be wearing booties in the winter at all?

According to Dr. Marty Becker at vetstreet.com, dog booties do work well to protect dog paws in the winter months, “especially if they have furry feet that collect ice and snow between the toes.” However, just like any human looking for a new pair of shoes, it’s critical to find quality dog booties that fit properly. They must be tight enough to stay on, yet loose enough to be comfortable. This can be a tough balance to strike, so if booties just simply don’t work for your dog, there are alternatives.

Experts suggest applying petroleum jelly before taking pets outdoors as an extra layer of protection and washing your dog’s paws in warm water right after a walk or play time outside. This not only keeps your dog’s paws from getting frozen, but removes any poisonous chemical residue that can be found in rock salt.

  1. Pay Close Attention to the Thermometer!

We tend to believe that because dogs have fur, they must be able to withstand much colder temperatures than we can. After all, it is logical. Having fur is like wearing a jacket except all of the time, right? Wrong.

The consensus among dog lovers and dog experts alike, is that dogs do get cold, and much more quickly than we might imagine. Keep an eye on the temperature gauge (including wind chill) before embarking on any outdoor expeditions with your pup to see if it’s safe to go outside.

Staff veterinarian at PetPlan Insurance, Dr. Kim Smyth, created a handy chart  that helps dog owners make the right call.  According to Smyth, you should start to be concerned when the weather drops to 20 degrees fahrenheit if you have a small dog and 10 degrees if you have a medium or large dog.  

If you plan on still spending time outdoors with your pooch in low temperatures, make sure to think about getting them set up with a sweet doggie winter jacket!

Even if the temperature drops dangerously low, your dog still needs exercise - so it’s time to get creative!  Rover.com gives a few suggestions for fun indoor activities like playing hide and seek, challenging your pup with a treat puzzle toy, or building an obstacle course.

  1. Keep Your Dog Off Frozen Water

So far this winter, temperatures have hit record lows, especially in the central and eastern regions of the U.S. It’s easy to assume, then, that all bodies of water are frozen solid and safe to walk on.

However, despite how excited your pup might be to venture out onto the ice, it’s never a good idea to take the risk. It’s impossible to know if the ice is strong enough to hold your dog’s weight. And, you could risk your life in an attempt to save him or her if an accident did occur. According to this Boston Globe article on protecting your pets during this year’s cold snap, dogs can also slip and fall on ice, causing potential bone or ligament injuries.

  1. Be Careful Leaving Your Pooch In the Car!

We all know that dogs shouldn't be left in the car during the warm summer months because they can easily overheat. However, what you might not realize is that it can be equally dangerous to leave your pup in the car in the winter, even with the heat on.

Why? Carbon Monoxide poisoning. If you leave the car running without proper ventilation, carbon monoxide can build up inside the car, accidentally poisoning your dog. The best way to prevent this is to simply avoid leaving your pet alone in the car. However, if you must do so, check to make sure nothing is blocking the tailpipe and that your vehicle is not parked in an enclosed area, like a garage.

If you do suspect that your dog might have carbon monoxide poisoning, refer to this article from PetMD that lists common symptoms and treatment options.

  1. Take Fewer Baths

Just like us humans, dogs can suffer from dry skin, especially in the winter. To prevent this from happening, experts recommend bathing your dog less frequently when the temperature drops.  It may also be helpful to switch out your typical shampoo for an oatmeal scrub, which has long been known to soothe dry skin. Here’s one recipe for a homemade oatmeal bath!

Be smart and use your best judgment when caring for your dog during the cold winter months.

Many of the precautions you would take to protect yourself during the winter also apply to caring for your dog, like selecting the appropriate footwear, staying away from icy areas, and preventing dry skin.

About The Author: Meg Marrs is the owner and senior editor of K9 of Mine, a dog care resource website. When she’s not cuddling puppies, you can find her lounging in

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