Outdoor exercise and regular walks should be part of every dog's daily schedule. In the cold winter months, however, this can become a challenge. When it's blowing a gale and snowing outside, possibly with black ice on top of that, and you can't escape the road salt, it's a good idea to adapt your equipment, your walking routes and the general care you give to your dog to the weather.
It depends very much on your dog and the current situation. A study by Tufts University (USA) found that most dogs have no problem with temperatures down to 7°C. At temperatures between 7 and -7°C, whether your dog will feel the cold or not depends on the circumstances. And if the weather turns Arctic and you don't have a Nordic breed at home, you should be a bit more careful than usual. We recommend our herbal mixture Super Power to support their immune system.
Most breeds that have an undercoat don’t get cold easily. It’s different for animals that don’t have an undercoat. In this case, protecting the sensitive parts of their body, such as the abdomen and kidneys, is essential.
Weight is also an important factor when it comes to thermal insulation. In principle, lighter dogs get colder faster than heavier dogs (which of course is not a licence to overfeed them! We are talking about your dog’s healthy ideal weight). Puppies and seniors, on the other hand, will feel the cold quicker. But again, it very much depends on the individual dog.
Possible signs that your dog is getting cold:
If your dog is cold, you should put something on them. This is nothing to do with humanising or coddling your dog. It is simply for the benefit of your pet's health and to prevent colds, bladder infections or, in the worst case, hypothermia.
The coat, jumper, harness vest (or whatever is most appropriate in your situation) should be as water repellent as possible but still breathable. The clothing should not restrict your furry friend's movement while fitting well and covering all the sensitive parts of their body, and should ideally also be easy to put on and take off.
Since it gets dark earlier in the winter months, ensuring that you and your dog are clearly visible to motorists and other pedestrians is advisable. Bright collars and reflective clothing help a lot. If your daily route is not lit, a small torch or headlamp can be a valuable guide.
It's best to keep moving on winter walks. That way neither human nor animal gets cold too quickly. It can also be a good idea to take smaller walks more often instead of one big outing.
Dog paws and the special care they require in winter is a very important topic. Most dogs’ paws are very robust. Cold alone would not be a problem. However, it's a different story when snow, grit and road salt are added to the mix.
With the added strain, paws need a lot of attention and care. The minimum is daily paw checks and cleaning, and a nourishing paw balm, which you can apply before and after walks to help protect the paws. The topic is such a big one that we have dedicated a separate article to it. You can read about how to properly care for your dog's paws in winter here.
Of course, you should look after their coat all year round. In winter, however, brushing your pet regularly is even more beneficial. It stimulates blood circulation and therefore also helps to protect against the cold.
Only bathe your dog when it is absolutely necessary. A wet animal tends to get cold. Dry your furry friend thoroughly at home when it's wet outside. An extra blanket (which you should change after a while) in their basket helps stop your dog from lying in the wet.
Letting your dog eat snow is not advisable for various reasons. Of course, your furry friend might bite into the glittering snow out of joy. That's not usually so bad. It starts to be a concern when an animal doesn’t stop eating snow. This cold meal can lead to diarrhoea, tonsillitis or even gastritis.
Moreover, the white snow is not necessarily “clean”. Apart from the pollutants from exhaust gases that are trapped in precipitation, in urban areas the snow can contain antifreeze and road salt. In the worst case, this can lead to poisoning symptoms. But we don't want to cry wolf. After all, the snow is also a lot of fun. Provide your dog with enough to drink before going out. This can help to limit the amount of snow they eat.