We like to think our dogs are resilient in the winter, with their thick fur coats and padded paws. Long haired dogs do have extra protection in the winter, and outdoor dogs grow a fuller coat as the weather cools.
However, that doesn’t mean a domesticated, pampered house pooch can handle extreme elements as well as a fully adapted wild dog or a trained sled dog. While pet insurance companies exist to protect your furry family all year long, even owners who have dog insurance should use common sense during the winter.
“An indicator that it’s too cold for your dog is: if your nose gets cold when you are walking them, that is how cold their feet are getting,” said Rachel Sentes, a former writer for Pet Rescue Magazine in Edmonton, AB, Canada.
Dogs are safer staying home in the winter as opposed to taking car trips, especially if the dog will be left in the vehicle for any period of time. While cars become ovens in the summer as they trap heat, they become refrigerators in the winter, and keeping the car running poses the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning unless the windows are open.
According to Dr. Justine Lee, a Minnesota veterinarian who has worked with Alaskan sled dogs, in certain cases cold winter temperatures can cause added pet health issuse such as stress, which can be taxing on pets.
“If a dog has underlying hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) or a medical condition where he can’t regulate his temperature normally, I wouldn’t recommend it at all,” said Lee of leaving a dog inside a car during the winter.
Lee also warns of possible side effects from breathing in cold air for extended periods of time.
“Some rare dogs have cold-induced asthma/bronchitis, and can’t exercise as well in cold weather,” said Lee, author of It’s a Dog’s Life…But It’s Your Carpet. “Signs would be coughing, shortness of breath, and exercise intolerance.”
When any changes occur in a pet while exposed to harsh elements, having pet insurance for your dog will ensure that your best furry friend can be quickly evaluated, treated, and sent home warm and cozy.