Many people assume that their outdoor dog is capable of handling very cold weather without extra accommodations, but this can lead to a dangerous situation for many animals. Knowing how to protect your outdoor dog from cold weather and how to recognize the signs of hypothermia can help you keep your dog safe this winter.
Ensure Your Dog's Shelter is In Good Condition
Your dog should have a location outdoors where he or she can go to sleep and be safe from the cold. This may be a dog house, shed, or an outdoor enclosed patio. Check the condition of the shelter to be sure that it is sound, free of water leaks and easily accessible for your dog. The door should not be closed or locked so that your dog can't reach it. Check to be sure there is an insulated bed in the shelter where your dog can sleep. Consider providing your dog with a heated bed to help your dog stay warm when temperatures drop.
Provide Heated Dishes
Winter weather can easily freeze your dog's water and food, making it hard for your dog to stay fed and hydrated. Provide your dog with heated dishes that will thaw the water and food inside. Check the batteries for functionality each time you add water or food to the dishes.
Check the Forecast Daily
Make it your routine to check the weather forecast every day. When temperatures outside drop to dangerous lows, plan to bring your dog inside your home. If you don't know what qualifies as "dangerous lows," speak with your pet's veterinarian. Smaller dogs are less capable of handling cold weather than bigger dogs, so it will vary animal by animal.
Prepare a Safe Place Indoors for Your Dog
Have a safe, heated place inside your house where your dog can stay warm when the temperature outside drops. Put an extra bed, water dish and food dish in this location. If this spot is in a heated garage, be careful to remove dangerous chemicals (like antifreeze) from the area before putting your dog inside.
Know the Signs of Hypothermia in Dogs
Knowing the signs of hypothermia in dogs can save your dog's life. The symptoms of hypothermia include:
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Moving slowly or not at all
- Trying to "burrow" for a warm place
If your dog shows signs of hypothermia, contact the animal hospital right away. For safety's sake, keep the animal hospital's phone number on your refrigerator or kitchen bulletin board, so you'll be able to reach the hospital right away.