Here we are again, in the throes of winter. And for much of the nation, we’re dealing with constant snow and even sub-zero temperatures. A quiet landscape with a fresh blanket of snow can be a beautiful sight, but it can also be dangerous.
Whether your fur baby loves to play in the snow or would rather stay curled up indoors, the fact of the matter is they have to go outdoors. If your pup is the type that just like to run out, do her business, then come right back in, you really don’t have a whole lot to worry about. But for those crazy dogs that love the frigid temps and frolicking in the snow, they need to be monitored carefully.
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Inevitably each winter, we hear stories of dogs that are left outside for extended periods of time. Some of these cases result in illness or frostbite. Unfortunately, some of these stories have much more tragic endings than that.
Recently a concerned neighbor in Mt. Healthy, Ohio (a suburb of Cincinnati) started a petition asking the city and county to implement laws banning dog tethering in extreme weather conditions. Rebecca Stiver started the petition after seeing videos on Facebook from local friends showing dogs left out in the cold for hours.
“Somebody has to stand up and do something,” Stiver said. “They’re voiceless, so when it comes to animals, we have to stand up and we have to be their voice.”
There also is a common misconception about different types of dogs and cold whether. Based on shear body mass, larger dogs can tolerate the cold a bit longer than smaller dogs. The same goes with dogs that have thick coats of fur, like Akitas or Huskies. But these attributes don’t make them impervious to the cold. ALL dogs are susceptible to hypothermia if they are outdoors too long.
Your dogs may not be tethered outside for hours on end. Maybe they’re just going out to do their business and for a bit of play. But depending on how cold it is, just a short amount of time could be detrimental to their health.
Dr. Kim Smyth, a staff veterinarian with pet insurance company PetPlan, modeled the following chart on a scale developed by Tufts University. The scale determines how dogs respond to different weather conditions based on build.
In an interview with WBUR radio, Dr. Smyth noted, “No two canines—nor their fluff—are exactly alike. Dogs that are conditioned for the cold, or ones with heavy coats, fare better than older dogs or those with health conditions. Tiny, short-haired dogs may struggle too. Shivering is the first sign of hypothermia, so if you see your pups trembling, you want to get these dogs inside, wrap them up in a warm towel or blanket, and get them to the vet if you need to.”
The most important rule to remember when winter weather settles in is this: If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog.