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Keeping your dog healthy during winter

10 Jan 2024

During winter, it is particularly important that owners closely monitor and ensure that their pet or working dogs stay healthy and safe. Dogs are far more sensitive to temperature changes than humans, and can quickly begin suffering the effects of hypothermia or hyperthermia. While it is well-known how dangerous summertime and heat can be to dogs, owners should also be vigilant throughout winter, especially when temperatures have suddenly dropped not allowing time for acclimatisation.

Dogs suffering from hypothermia may display a number of symptoms including shivering, drowsiness, confusion, clumsiness, gums paling, and losing consciousness. Hypothermia occurs when their body temperature drops beneath its normal range of 37.7- 39°C, and if not quickly identified and averted can prove fatal. If you believe that your dog is suffering from hypothermia, it is best to keep it dry while gradually raising its body temperature and seek immediate veterinary advice.

While certain breeds have evolved to thrive in cold and snowy conditions, others will struggle to tolerate sudden temperature drops. Dogs with short and single-layer coats such as Greyhounds, Dachshunds, and Dobermanns are more likely to suffer the effects of the cold, and require closer supervision than a Husky, Malamute, or Akita would. These breeds can particularly benefit from provisions such as special coats to make spending time outside in the cold easier for them, while boots to protect paws against frostbite should be considered for all dogs.

Whatever the weather, a dog’s enrichment requirements are unlikely to dramatically change. To this end, it can be best practice to minimise the time a dog has to spend outside and in the cold by replacing longer walks with indoor play and activities. Hide and seek, “find it” with treats, and tug of war with chew toys are all excellent ways to tire a dog out indoors while reducing the length of its daily walks.


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