Dog in the snow: Healthy through the winter
Dirty weather, snow and frost accompany the usually uncomfortable winter season. Nevertheless, your four-legged friend needs to get out into the air several times a day. In principle, temperatures above zero degrees are not yet a big danger for dogs. However, different factors such as breed, size, body fat percentage and state of health of your four-legged friend influence how cold your pet feels. The following applies: the greater the difference between body temperature and air temperature, the more energy and protection dogs need to regulate. We explain how to recognise dangers, how to prevent a cold or hypothermia at an early stage and how to organise walks in winter correctly.
Cold and snow: Danger for the dog
Some breeds of dog, such as huskies, Bernese mountain dogs and German shepherds, protect themselves from hypothermia by having a dense coat with an undercoat and can temporarily romp around in the garden even in icy sub-zero temperatures without any problems. Excess weight also protects against the cold. However, due to the increased energy requirements of your dog in winter, the pounds of your pet could quickly fall off and the winter fat could be lost. Basically, these factors can increase your dog's sensitivity to the cold:
- Small dog breeds: The petite stature of breeds such as dwarf spaniels, German Spitz, Affenpinscher and Chihuahuas makes them more sensitive to the cold.
- Dog breeds with thin, short coats: From the Boxer to the Doberman to the French Bulldog - short coats and a thin coat do not provide sufficient protection against the cold and wet.
- Old and immunocompromised dogs: A lot of exercise is important to keep the body temperature up. However, sick four-legged friends and senior dogs often find it difficult to achieve the necessary level of exercise.
- Puppies: Young dogs have not yet fully developed their defences. Their coat structure and sensitive organs are also growing and are therefore particularly susceptible to environmental influences.
- Dogs with joint diseases: Moderate, dry cooling for joint problems is healthy. Wetness and extreme cold, on the other hand, reduce blood circulation and tense the muscles. The increased sensation of cold in diseases such as arthritis usually has painful consequences.
Our tip: Regardless of the breed, age and health of your four-legged friend, all dogs get cold quickly on their paws, ears, muzzle and belly in freezing temperatures. For paw care, regularly lubricate your pet's paws with milking grease or Vaseline to keep them soft and supple and prevent sore pads. If your pet wears dog shoes, you can prevent ice lumps from forming between the toes due to the snow. They also protect the paws from cracks and burns caused by road salt and antifreeze.
Wintertime: When dogs freeze
If dogs sit or rest on cold ground for a long period of time, they will freeze after a short time. You can tell if your furry friend is getting too cold by these signs:
- Slowed movements
- Cramped posture
If you notice one or more of these symptoms, it's best to find a source of warmth nearby and head home as soon as possible.
Our tip: If you can't get your dog out of the cold immediately, you can also temporarily transfer your own body heat to your pet. A comfortable place for dogs to get warm is, for example, between your legs or curled up in your arms on your lap.
Colds in dogs
If your dog has been exposed to the cold for several hours or has been rolling around in the snow, this may have resulted in a cold. You can tell if your pet needs bed rest by the following symptoms:
- Runny nose and frequent sneezing
- Watery eyes
Caution: If your four-legged friend shows more than one of the symptoms mentioned above, go to a vet to clarify the clinical picture, because the same signs can also be seen in diseases such as dog flu, bronchitis and distemper.
Our tip: Dry your dog thoroughly, especially when it is raining, wet on the ground or snowing. This will prevent possible secondary diseases such as pneumonia or bladder infections.
Hypothermia in animals
In addition to a cold or flu, there is also the risk of local hypothermia, i.e. undercooling. This manifests itself as frostbite on the ears and paws. Hypothermia on the entire body of your four-legged friend is also a danger. If you notice one or more of the following symptoms, it is advisable to go to the nearest vet or veterinary clinic immediately:
- Dilated pupils and wide eyes
- Shallow, heavy breathing
- Pale, bluish oral mucosa
In the worst case, extreme hypothermia can lead to organ damage and even life-threatening organ failure.
First aid measures in case of hypothermia
If your dog is fit for transport, it is best to drive to the vet immediately. Make the transport as stress-free and comfortable as possible for your dog by providing internal and external warmth:
- Cover him up: Wrap your pet in a pre-warmed blanket (from the heater or dryer). An enclosed hot water bottle or grain pillow will provide additional warmth. At best, also cover his head, but keep his nose and mouth free so that he can breathe adequately.
- Let him drink: Offer your furry friend a bowl of lukewarm drinking water before the journey.
Snow gastritis in dogs
Most dogs love snow! They roll in it, lick it up from the ground, bite into it or catch snowflakes. However, certain suspended substances are dissolved in the snow, e.g. rock flour; road salt and grit residues can also be hidden in the snow. If your dog eats too much of it, these substances cause stomach problems and can even cause inflammation of the stomach lining - snow gastritis.
The first signs of mucosal irritation are:
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach rumbling
- Stomach ache/abdominal pain (tense abdominal wall with bent back)
- Vomiting of foamy mucus (white, yellow or brown)
In case of stomach problems, it is better not to offer your pet any food for 24 hours, and then at best feed him some special food. Rice with unseasoned, cooked chicken is particularly good. Also offer your dog plenty of water so that he does not become dehydrated. You can also make a tea of mixed herbs such as lemon balm, fennel, peppermint, chamomile, caraway and thyme and pour it lukewarm over the food.
If the symptoms persist for more than 24 hours and there is bloody diarrhoea or blood in the vomit, your dog is suffering from gastritis. Your dog is increasingly weak due to the loss of electrolytes. Therefore, it is best to take your dog to the vet immediately for appropriate gastrointestinal treatment.
Our tip: When it snows, keep puppies and untrained dogs on a leash and educate them about eating snow. Pull gently on the leash, combined with a firm "No! It is also better not to throw snowballs and thus reduce your dog's pleasure in biting into the snow.
Healthy through the winter: 11 tips for dog owners
- Walk your dog: Take your dog for several short walks instead of one long winter walk. If your dog is particularly sensitive, avoid deep snow.
- Drying: Always dry your dog thoroughly with a towel after walking in the snow or rain. If your dog is very susceptible to the cold and his coat dries very slowly, you can give him a lukewarm blow-dry.
- Cut hair: Cut long fur between the toes short, so at best no ice and snow clumps can form.
- Coat care: Brush and groom your furry friend regularly. This maintains the natural insulating function.
- Dog coat: In winter, senior citizens, puppies and dogs with short and thin fur in particular enjoy the cosy warmth under the protection of a dog coat. In case of precipitation, it is advisable to choose a water-repellent coat.
- Paw protection: Paw shoes protect the paw pads from cold cracks and injuries caused by road salt.
- Exercise: Always keep your four-legged friend moving outside. Romping and playing are fun and keep the body temperature warm.
- Cosiness: Move your pet's sleeping place to a warm spot in the house. A place near the heater or fireplace is particularly suitable.
- House arrest: In very low temperatures in the high minus range and strong gusts of wind, it makes sense to stay indoors. Your pet should do quickly in the garden or on the nearest grass verge in front of the house.
- Food supplements: You can enrich your pet's food with vitamins to strengthen its defences. Fish oil helps prevent dehydration of the skin. Your vet can advise you on the correct choice and dosage of supplements to suit your pet's needs.
- Prevention: Feed elm bark as a preventative at the beginning of the cold season. This protects the mucous membrane and provides magnesium, calcium and important vitamins.
Conclusion: Make sure your dog gets enough exercise in winter, set up cosy places near sources of warmth and strengthen his immune system with the right food. This way you can enjoy short winter walks and playtime in the immediate vicinity without worrying and be back home before it gets too cold for your dog. Back at home, fluffy dog blankets and cosy dog sleeping areas provide a pleasant place to relax. Share your tips with us: How do you relax on cold days and strengthen your defences in winter?