Many people believe that their dog can’t get frostbite, or that it’s silly for dogs to wear sweaters. When the temperature falls below 32 degrees, humans and dogs are at risk for frostbite. Just like their human friends, when a dog gets cold, the body will redirect blood from the extremities to the vital organs to help protect them. This means that tail, ears, noses, and paws can all suffer from the cold and experience damage.
Some dog breeds have an easier time maintaining body temperature because they have been bred to do so – Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malumutes have insulating coats – but all dogs can suffer from frostbitten feet if they are left in the cold for extended periods of time. If you are planning to be outdoors with your dog in very cold weather or for a long while, you can help your pet stay comfortable, dry, and warm with coats, sweaters or booties.
Coats and jackets are an obvious must for smooth coated and small breeds, but they can be helpful to long-coated breeds that don’t have a double coat, or thin dogs who carry very little body weight. Unless your dog seems overheated, he can probably benefit from a coat during very cold walk. Booties are great for all dogs, protecting feet from frostbite, jagged ice, and chemicals used to melt ice.
If you are afraid your dog may be hypothermic from exposure, look for the following signs:
• Cold ears and feet
• Rapid breathing
• Increase in urination
• Hair standing on ends
If your dog shows these signs, bring him indoors immediately and dry him off with a warm towel. Offer him fresh, lukewarm water, and call your veterinarian or emergency vet.
The following video contains wonderful information about protecting your dog from the cold this winter: