While some breeds retain their original wild traits and can keep themselves warm, many breeds have either lost their survival instincts or were never bred for cold weather. Smaller dogs, in particular, need extra protection when the mercury dips. These cold weather safety precautions can help.
Tips to protect your small dog from the cold
- Go for short walks—no more than 5 or 10 minutes during extremely cold weather.
- If you own a short-hair breed, purchase a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck and full belly coverage.
- Provide a warm bed away from drafts.
- Never leave your dog alone in a car in cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold.
- If you regularly groom your dog, leave his coat longer in the winter for warmth. When you bathe your dog, dry him completely before going out for a walk during cold-weather months.
- If your dog has been playing in the snow, check his feet. There may be ice or snowballs stuck between his toes that can be very cold and painful. Use a warm washcloth to quickly melt them.
Watch for signs of hypothermia
If you're outside with your dog and notice prolonged shivering, take him indoors right away. This could be a sign of hypothermia. Shivering serves as a short-term way for your dog to stay warm by speeding up his metabolism. But it takes a lot of energy to shiver, and eventually that energy will run out, causing a dog's body temperature to drop. Signs of more advanced hypothermia include weakness, disorientation, and lethargy.
What to do if you think your dog is hypothermic
If your dog is showing signs of hypothermia, act quickly and follow these steps:
- Bring him indoors.
- Immediately wrap him in blankets.
- Crank up the heat a few degrees or light a fire.
- Stay with your pet until he stops shivering, is more alert, and has a temperature of 100°F.
As soon as your dog seems okay, give him some food and water; fuel helps generate warmth and strength. If your pet's condition does not improve within a few minutes, or if he is weak, disoriented or loses consciousness, take him to your vet immediately.
Remember, your small dog depends on you to protect him from the cold. By taking a few steps to ensure his safety, he can stay warm and comfortable all winter.