Winter Dangers: Protecting Our Pets Against the Extreme Cold

I received a question come up about the real cold and dogs - you know, the kind where your nose hairs freeze when you go outside. Here's the Q&Amp;A for your reading pleasure.

Q: I would like to see more on the dangers to our pets from minus temps like we had in the Denver area last January. Our dog would go out and start limping after just a few moments. What should you do and what should you be watching out for in sub zero temps? Our pets need to go out--but what can we do to protect them from such extreme cold?

A: I asked a variety of folks to answer this one - from veterinarians to people with dogs in cold climes, and here's what they had to say.

From Dr Riggs:

What I was taught was that dogs feet are less likely to be prone to get frostbitten.  The reasons are that the dogs feet are protected more by the fur around the pads and the thick leather like pads also help to insulate.  The dogs temp is higher then humans, 102 vs 98.6, thus also helping then keep warm. I think the most important thing is  that when cold, dog's blood is not shunted away from their feet keeping them warm. In people when we get cold, our blood is shunted away from our extremities to keep the core warm , thus our feet and hands get cold. 

Sled dogs wear booties more for abrasion protection, but can help to keep them warm. Just make sure snow does not get down inside the boot.

From a long-time resident of the Denver area:

Always shovel them an area to go potty and be extra careful you are using de-icer that is safe for pets.  Salt can be very irritating to them. 

Check their paws when they come inside and remove any packed ice and snow that has accumulated between the pads while they were out.

MuttLuks are awesome and I highly recommend them for dogs who are truly sensitive to cold on their feet.

There is also a paste wax sort of thing you can put on the pads that will help keep them safe from salt and non-pet safe de-icers while out on their walks.

From Dr Carleton:

I think all my advice would be more or less the common sense recommendations. For example, dogs who get cold feet can wear booties which will help;  sweaters and coats for the small, thin haired breeds.

When very cold, only short periods of outdoor time. If a dog is being housed outdoors, I would recommend a heated dog house with a lot of warm bedding in it...

I always suggest dog coats for those breeds that do not have their own natural wooly coats (think min pins for example) to keep them warm.

Do you have any suggestions for people living in the coldest climates?

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Winter Dangers: Protecting Our Pets Against the Extreme Cold

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