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Winter and Your Pets – Outdoor Outings

By Colleen Williams
December 20, 2011 • 2 min. read
Dog walking in winter

It’s important for your pooch to get exercise to stay healthy, even in winter. But during these cold months, it’s also essential to take some precautions to protect your pet’s health. The temperature, substances on the ground, frostbite, and hypothermia are all concerns to the responsible pet parent.

Watch for Symptoms of Cold-Related Illnesses

When the temperature outside creeps below freezing, your dog becomes susceptible to dangerous illnesses like frostbite and hypothermia. Signs of these ailments include shivering, lethargy, muscle stiffness, and swollen or hardened skin that remains cold. If your pet exhibits any of these symptoms, seek veterinary care immediately. Treatment for these conditions can run to $500 and more, depending on the severity. Keep an eye on your dog during winter walks, and limit time outside to fifteen minutes or less when temperatures are around freezing.

Suit Up During Winter Walks

As ridiculous as they may seem, jackets and sweaters intended for dogs can keep them toasty warm and prevent cold-related illnesses. Smaller dogs, as well as hairless or short-haired ones, can benefit from the insulation a coat provides. When looking for a doggy garment, make sure the fit is correct – too tight or loose can restrict movement or cause your pet to overheat. Booties or shoes can also protect paws from the icy ground and substances on it. However, even with protective garments, in cold temperatures time outside should be limited.

Inspect Paws After Being Outside

After walking your pet outside, it’s important to inspect your dog’s paws for any foreign objects or liquids. Snow and ice can obscure obstacles that your pet could step on, injuring their delicate paw pads or wedging inside paws. Antifreeze and coolant, which are poisonous to dogs, can also be picked up by bare paws and licked off later. Wipe off paws with a damp cloth to remove substances. Booties or doggie shoes are also an option, especially if you are walking your pet in an icy area.

During winter, there are many dangers lowered temperatures and frigid weather pose to canines. Hypothermia and frostbite, as well as antifreeze poisoning, are potential risks from walking your dog outside in winter. Jackets and booties designed for dogs afford protection from the elements and can prevent the aforementioned illnesses. Limit outdoor time to fifteen minutes or less when temperatures rest around freezing. Play safe with your pet this winter!

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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