Monday, January 19, 2015

Cold? What Cold? Keeping Pets Warm In The Winter

Felissa Elfenbein of Two Little Cavaliers has organized a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers Winter can pose to our dogs. 

That is a great idea. Yes, dogs can get frostbite, suffer from hyperthermia and in some really sad cases even freeze to death. Can you imagine?

In her post she's sharing tips on keeping dogs warm indoors which is also important though we do not have this concern for a number of reasons. Our dogs are more than warm enough indoors, even though we keep the thermostat at about 18°C. At night they sleep with us so all they have to do is to cuddle up closer.

I know for a fact that they are comfy enough cuddled up at ambient temperature of -3°C. 

Our guys are equipped for cold with their double-coat. And while it doesn't look thick at all, it is. We never realized how thick their undercoat really is until Jasmine had half her body shaved for surgery for the first time. There was at least an inch and a half of undercoat we never knew about.

That said, what would happen if the power went out? Presently we have oil heater but without power it would not run.

I always envied people with fireplaces. So it happened that we were never lucky to have neither a fireplace or a wood stove. Maybe in the future. For now, we have a generator on hand which should keep the heat running. And if all else failed, we do have an emergency kerosene heater. Those things work quite well.

Living in northern Canada, indoor temperatures are the least of our worries.

This Winter was particularly generous and we even got a few days of -40°C with windchill. That is damn cold. You see, around here we consider -10°C a t-shirt weather.

While we're still not overly worried about core temperature, this is definitely time to worry about the extremities - feet and ears. Even Cookie couldn't take it for more than 5-10 minutes at a time. We spent most of the day inside, played games, and did a number of very short trips outside.

When it warmed up to about -36°C, Cookie could stay out frolicking with me a little longer.

We did make sure to remain close around the house so we could terminate the outing immediately once Cookie started lifting her feet in discomfort.

To help protect the feet we use Musher's Secret. We did consider booties repeatedly, but with the way our guys are we are still not sure whether it would be more hazardous than helpful.

Extremities is about all we have to worry about with our guys who are quite well equipped for cold weather.

With some other breeds, particularly those with only short thin top coats, such as Boxers, keeping them warm with a sweater or a coat is a smart thing to do. Even in the t-shirt weather.

Around here, once it warms to up to -20°C, all bets are off. The guys find that comfy while very invigorating. The main thing to watch then is that they don't overdo it will all the running and playing.

And, of course, as I mentioned earlier, -10°C is a t-shirt weather.

I can see that with all that running she does, Cookie actually does manage to get hot. And so do we when we have to wear bit pants because of the deep snow.

So it's all relative, like everything else.

What is cold for each individual dog varies on the breed and their exposure to such environment. Being outside a lot, our guys prepare for cold weather by growing thicker undercoat. If we lived down South and suddenly came up here, I'm sure the guys would be freezing too.

The important thing is to know your dog and their threshold.

And if it would be too cold for them, yes, dress them up.

Special consideration needs to be made for dogs who normally live outdoors/in the yard.

Yes, they can acclimate but within reason, depending on their breed and on the weather. Please do know when it's too cold for them to remain outside and bring them indoors.


  1. Knowing each dogs threshold is indeed excellent advice. Corgi Brychwyn has never gotten cold feet or ears when cold weather trekking- he runs circles around everyone the whole time- but his ears, feet and tail have gotten cold sleeping outdoors even in mild temperatures. It makes a a it difference to be still. With all his corgi fur, though, he has only ever needed a top blanket and a cuddle to get and remain warm.

    1. Yes, there are breed differences, individual differences, activity level differences and location differences to keep in mind.