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Extreme Cold Weather Canine Care

Winter is upon us across the U.S., with extremely cold conditions impacting many. Just as with hot summer conditions it is vital to take special precautions to ensure the weather does not have adverse effects on your canine’s health. A Canine’s tolerance to cold weather will vary based on their coat, body fat stores, fitness level and overall health.

For those with family pets keeping your canine warm and in good health is fairly easy. Make sure your canine has a warm place to get out of the cold air flow. Make certain that the canines bedding area is blocked from wind (remember winds can swirl from multiple directions). Blankets are a common bedding choice but, during these extremely cold conditions consider adding hay or cedar chips. Another suggestion is an insulated kennel jacket.

Water freezes, it is vital that you ensure that your canines water supply (if outside) is not frozen. This needs to be checked multiple times a day. 

For the working dog community cold weather is just another environmental condition that is a part of the job. Just because it is bitterly cold doesn’t mean that you get the day off. So here are some working dog specific tips for operating in these harsh conditions.

  1. Monitor the canines weight every day to ensure proper feeding and working weight due to excessive calories burned working in the cold environment. You may have to increase feeding by 30% to maintain proper working weight.
  2. Check your canine’s feet frequently for signs of cold-weather injury, paw pads can begin to crack or even bleed. Ice can accumulate between his/her toes increasing risk of damage and limiting their mobility. Ice accumulation can be reduced by trimming the hair between the canine’s toes.
  3. In extremely cold conditions frostbite might become a real possibility (Yes animals can get frostbite). To mitigate this risk, ensure that your canines feet and body are thoroughly dry in order to prevent frost bite.
  4. Increase your awareness of the working conditions; canine’s will be more prone to slipping and falling on icy surfaces.
  5. The risk of hypothermia is present and real in these extreme conditions handlers must be watchful for the symptoms: Violent shivering, slow and shallow respiration, and a slower heart rate. At the first sign of these symptoms take immediate action, move the canine to a warm area and wrap them in warm blankets. 

Stay vigilant of your canine’s behavior. If he/she is suffering from the effects of cold weather, they will not be able to perform tasks to standard. If that’s the case, then immediately terminate your search / work and get your canine to a warm dry place. Never forget an unhealthy canine is an is ineffective canine.

Prevention is the most proactive method of dealing with cold weather canine injuries. If you identify health issue, contact your veterinarian for guidance on treatment and further required actions.