In Minnesota, we’re known for our rugged endurance for arctic temperatures and layers of snow, but our dogs aren’t always as prepared as we are.
The subzero temperatures pose hypothermia and frostbite risks for our furry friends, so it’s important to be prepared and to know how to protect your dog in the winter.
Read on to learn 7 winter safety tips to keep your dog safe and help them enjoy a long Minnesota winter.
1. Know Your Dog’s Cold Weather Limits
Different dogs will have a different tolerance for cold temperatures, so it’s important to know your dog’s limits.
temperatures better than dogs with short fur and little body fat like whippets or chihuahuas.
Your dog’s age also plays a huge factor in how your dog handles the winter weather. A younger, more active dog is likely able to better handle the cold than an older dog.
Here are a few general guidelines for most dogs:
- Most dogs will start to feel cold when the temperatures are below 45℉
- When the temperatures are below freezing (32℉), smaller, older, and thin-coated dogs will need to limit their time outdoors
- When the temperatures are below 20℉, most dogs will need to limit their outdoor time, and you should monitor your dog closely for signs of frostbite or hypothermia
2. Protect Their Paws
Winter sidewalks are usually salted to keep ice from building up. This salt or ice melt is dangerous for your pet’s paws and can cause burns. Though there are some pet-safe alternatives, you can never know for sure what someone has put on their sidewalk.
It’s best to put some kind of barrier on your dog’s paws before you go outside. Booties are a great option, as well as paw wax that prevents snow, ice, and salt from building up on your dog’s paws.
In addition, cold temperatures in general can dry out your dog’s paw pads and cause them to crack, which can be uncomfortable for your dog to walk on.
When you come inside from the cold, moisturize your dog’s paws for added comfort.
3. Always Wipe Off When You Get Inside
Salt isn’t the only winter chemical to watch out for. It’s common for antifreeze to spill in driveways or leak onto streets. If your dog ingests antifreeze, it can mean serious damage for your dog’s kidneys.
Additional moisture from playing in the snow can also keep your dog cold for longer and may even lead to ear infections if the moisture builds up in your dog’s ears.
Dry your dog off as soon as they get home to make sure they stay dry, warm, and safe.
4. Trim Your Dog’s Foot Fuzz
Long hair between your dog’s paw pads can attract snow and salt and form tiny ice balls in the crevices of your dog’s toes.
Keeping your dog’s feet fuzz nice and trimmed will help keep your dog warm and prevent potential paw burn. Regular nail trims also help keep snow and ice buildup from between your dog’s toes.
5. Avoid Thin Ice
We love our lakes in Minnesota, even in the winter, but take extra precaution when you approach the ice with your dog. Thin ice can easily break, leading to potentially deadly scenarios.
If you walk your dog off-leash, consider using a leash when you’re near the water to keep your dog (and you!) safe.
6. Make Sure Your Dog Still Gets Exercise
While your outdoor time might be limited because of freezing temperatures (especially if they’re sub-zero like the weather we’ve seen recently!), your dog still needs just as much exercise as during the summertime.
Get creative with indoor exercise and enrichment ideas! Store-bought puzzle toys are great options, but there are lots of great DIY projects you can do to keep your dog entertained and engaged.
Some great enrichment ideas for your dog include:
- Snuffle mats
- DIY indoor obstacle courses
- “Find it!” with a favorite toy
- Trick training
- Nose work games
7. Keep Yourself Visible at Night
Winter means shorter days and longer nights, so there’s a good chance you and your dog will be out after dark. To stay safe from oncoming traffic, use reflective or light-up clothing or dog gear.
Light-up leashes, reflective collars, and brightly colored jackets are great options to make sure you’re seen, even in the darkness.
How to Tell If Your Dog is Too Cold
If you’re not sure what your dog’s cold weather tolerance is, it’s important to monitor their body language and watch for signs of discomfort.
Common signs that your dog is too cold include:
- Shivering or shaking
- Whining, barking, or otherwise vocalizing discomfort
- Lifting their paws
- Showing signs of anxiety
- Tail tucked or ears folded back while outside
- Resisting their walk
If you know that your dog doesn’t do well in cold temperatures, consider a coat or sweater to keep their body warm while you go outside for a walk or playtime.
Your Winter Weather Walk Experts
At Pup Culture, our experienced dog walkers know how to make winter fun for your pups. Our trusted team will keep your pet safe while your dog gets their much-needed exercise.
Contact us today at 651-236-7312 to get started!