When the cold of winter sets in, we have to bundle up to keep ourselves warm. We wear layers, boots, and don’t stay outside longer than absolutely necessary, lest we come down with a case of hypothermia.
Did you know that we aren’t the only ones that can come down with it? Dog hypothermia is a very real thing that you have to be mindful of. After being outdoors for a while, you’ll want to keep an eye out for signs of hypothermia and find out how to keep a dog warm in the winter.
Dog Hypothermia Signs
Hypothermia is a medical condition that occurs when the body temperature is abnormally low. There are three phases of hypothermia:
Mild - 90 - 99°F (or 32 - 35°C)
Moderate - 82 - 90°F (28 - 32°C)
Severe - 82°F (28°C)
When hypothermia sets in, your body is no longer able to maintain a normal body temperature, which causes the central nervous system to start shutting down. Hypothermia can also affect the blood flow to and from the heart, their breathing, and even their immune system.
If prolonged instances of irregular heartbeat, trouble breathing, and an impaired consciousness occurs, then there is a chance of the animal falling into a coma.
Symptoms of the different degrees of hypothermia include:
- Mild hypothermia
- Moderate hypothermia
- Severe hypotherima
- Not mentally alert
- Muscle stiffness
- Low blood pressure
- Stupor-like state
- Shallow and slow breathing
- Fixed and dilated pupils
- Inaudible heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing
Needless to say, finding your dog in any of these states can be alarming!
There are things that you can do that will greatly reduce your dog’s chances of losing body heat to the point where they become hypothermic. In this article, we’re going to tell you how do to just that. We’re going to give you some information that will help you prepare your dog for winter, whether he’s an inside dog or if he’s an outside dog.
How To Keep A Dog Warm In the Winter
Pets have a rough time during the winter because they don’t have the ability to layer up like you or I can. They basically only have their fur to rely on to keep them warm.
This is why it is important that you, their owner, to provide them with the proper care so they can handle whatever Jack Frost throws your way. We should note that it isn’t just outdoor pets that need special care during winter, indoor pets do too, even if they go outside just to relieve themselves.
Winter Care For Outside Dogs
Naturally, no one is going to leave their dog outside in frigid, sub-zero temperatures. However, there are some climates where you can let your dog spend a lot of time outdoors if you take the necessary precautions.
The American Red Cross provided several useful tips that will help keep your dog warm during a snow storm and other wintery weather:
- Fresh Water Access – When the temperatures drop, access to fresh water is going to drop dramatically because chances are it will freeze in whatever bowl. This is why you may want to consider in using a heated water dish, which will stop the water from freezing. You do want to make sure that any ice or snow isn’t blocking your dog from accessing their water, food, dog house, or an area to relieve themselves.
- Provide A Good Shelter – Colder weather usually is accompanied by strong gusts of wind, which makes the temperature feel so much colder. This is why it’s important that you use insulated dog houses for winter. These houses should be draft-free, dry, and they should be structurally sound. Ideally, they will be a few inches off of the ground and the floor is covered in some type of covering, be it straw, cedar shavings, or a couple old blankets that they can snuggle up in. The overall dimensions of the dog house should be big enough for them to turn around in, but not too large where it cannot retain the dog’s body heat. Also, to aid with keeping the cold air and elements out of the winter dog house, tack up some kind of waterproof material like burlap or even a heavy plastic.
- Don’t Use Heated Pet Mats – These electric mats may seem like a good idea, but by using them, you are risking your pet getting burned if the mat gets too hot. In worse case scenarios, the mat could even catch on fire!
- Give Your Dog More Food – When it gets colder, your dog is going to use up more of their energy supply to keep them warm. During these cold temperatures, you can increase up to 15% more food to supplement the calories that are being burned trying to keep him warm. If you don’t want to give more food, you can give him more fat in his diet. This means saving beef or bacon grease, heating it up, and mixing it in with their normal amount of food. Do keep in mind that this extra fat can give them diarrhea or other gastrointestinal problems.
Winter Care For Indoor Dogs
Inside dogs who spend most of their days indoors are likely to find the sudden burst of coldness a startling shock. Many people feel that if a dog has fur, then they aren’t going to feel the cold air quite like we do.
Dogs who have long or fluffy fur still feel the chill, albeit not to the same degree as a short-haired dog. Even still, it is important that you take necessary precautions when you do take your pup outside during the winter—even if they are only going out to relieve themselves.
Here are some tips on how to provide proper winter care for your indoor dogs:
- If your dog normally plays outside as a form of dog exercise, winter can make that a little challenging. Instead of keeping them inside, you can still let your pet outdoors. Instead of an hour of playtime like usual, only keep them outside for 10 to 15 minutes. Keep checking on them to make sure they aren’t whining or shivering. If your dog doesn’t want to come in after the 15 minutes, watch them closely so they don’t get moderate hypothermia. Definitely don’t leave them outside longer than 30 to 45 minutes.
- Help older dogs, or dogs with mobility problems, up and down steps. It’s cold out there and there could be black ice on steps or stairs, making slipping and falling a possibility.
- Limit the length of time you take your dog out for a walk. When the temperatures drop below freezing, don’t make a walk last longer than 10 to 15 minutes. Although, if it’s really that cold out, we doubt your dog will want to be out there that long anyway.
- Pet clothes can be a great way to add additional insulation to your pet. The clothing you choose should be completely dry before you dress your pup. For that reason, you may want to invest in a couple different dog snow suits and dog boots for winter. When you’re looking for the best dog boots for winter or even dog jackets for winter, you’ll want to make sure the items fit well, but also that your dog will be comfortable wearing them. We recommend that you dress your dog up several times before actually taking them outside in their garments, just so they can get acclimated to wearing them.
- Clear away any snow or ice so they have a place to go to the bathroom. Smaller dogs can be trained to go to the bathroom on a pee pad if the weather is too bad. Large dogs can be trained to go on a pad too, but you may want to double the area, since they will have more to eliminate. Regardless of how short the bathroom trip is, you don’t ever want to take your dog outside if the temperatures drop below 0°F.
- Your dog may even feel the cold when they are inside. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure that their favorite sleeping spot is away from any drafty windows or doorways.
How To Care For Your Dog In Survival Situations?
When we hear there is a chance of a snow storm, we run out and load up on milk, eggs, bread, and other essentials that’ll see us through the storm. Why, we even go the extra mile to create survival kits for our cars that has everything to survive if our cars stop working in the middle of a storm.
However, we rarely think about the things we need to make sure our dogs survive a blizzard or any other catastrophe that could happen in the winter.
According to the Vice President of the Board of Disaster Animal Response Team of Athens County, Ohio, Dana Gardner, the most important thing you should never do during an emergency situation is to leave your pet at home.
If you’re in a situation where you have to evacuate, you are now allowed to bring your pets, thanks to the 2006 Federal Pets and Animals Transportation Standards Act.
So, if you are forced to evacuate and have to stay in a shelter to wait out the bad weather, you’re going to use your survival kit, but you’ll also need a dog survival kit that will be able to handle all the needs of your pet. Those needs are:
Perhaps the most important thing to have for your pet (and even yourself) is water. Water is essential for people and animals to survive, even when it’s cold outside. It’s a good idea that you have at least 7 days’ worth of water on hand for everyone in your group and for your pet. Sure, your pet could easily share some water from you, but it never hurts to have that extra water on hand.
The moisture in the wet food can help increase your pets intake of water if they aren’t drinking enough water because they are stressed.
Next is shelter and warmth. If your dog normally sleeps outside in his own little puppy mansion, it will probably be warm and dry. However, you may still want to bring him inside because you can’t be sure how deep the snow will get or just to be able to comfort each other in a stressful and sometimes scary situation.
Also, when you bring your dog inside, they can help keep you warm too! If you aren’t able to bring your dog inside for one reason or another, put some kind of insulation, like Styrofoam, under the dog house to keep it off the cold ground. You’ll also want to insulate the sides of the house with straw, blankets, and even newspaper.
Something that works well in our survival kits that will work as well for your dog is a Mylar blanket. These blankets are able to reflect your body heat back onto you. So, by lining the inside of your dog’s house with one of these blankets, you’re able to reflect their heat back onto them.
Keep in mind that these blankets can and do rip easily, so that should be something you consider because your dog is going to turn around several times before laying down.
Another useful addition you can add to your pets survival gear will be those reusable hand warmers—if you are able to keep an eye on your pet at all times, so that they don’t eat the warmer.
With these warmers, you can wrap your dog in their favorite blanket and rest the warmers on top and around them. If you prefer not to use a chemical based warmer, you could always use a hot water blanket.
A comforting little addition to your kit could be something from home. Be it their favorite toy, an article of clothing that smells like you, or something that will give them some peace in a very stressful time—both for you and for them.
For many people, our pets mean as much to us as our children. They are a huge part of our family and we tend to treat them as such. So, when it gets colder outside, it is up to us to make sure that we know how to keep a dog warm in winter and how to make sure they are able to survive a catastrophe—just as we would with our children or spouses.
In an effort to keep our dog’s warm, we can provide them with shelter that has been outfitted in straw, newspaper, and lined with Styrofoam or even use Mylar blankets. We can even dress them up in dog snow boots, jackets, and other winter gear that’s made especially for a dog.
All of these things can go a long way in keeping your dog comfortable during those cold months. Should there ever be an instance where a typical snowfall turns into something serious and dangerous, it’s a good idea to have a doggie survival kit on hand too.
In that kit, you’ll want to include everything your dog will need to survive the situation. While they may not need as much food or water as people do, it is still a good idea to have enough for a week’s worth, just to be safe.
Many people can’t imagine their lives without their pets. The steps you take today to ensure that your pet is happy, healthy, warm, and safe will help ensure that they will be around for years to come.