How to Travel in Extreme Cold with Your Dog

January 6, 2016

dog winter travel jurvetsonBy Laurie Darroch

While some dogs thrive in the cold, not all dogs handle it well. Factors such as coat thickness, the age or health of the dog, and the level and type of cold may make it difficult for your dog to deal with extremely chilly temperatures while you travel. Taking your dog on a winter vacation with you may sound like fun, but you need to make sure they can handle the cold first. Even dogs who love the cold may need some extra precautions when you take them traveling or exploring in the wintertime.

Prevention

If you plan on being outside with your dog when you are traveling, keep her coat and feet in good condition. Proper grooming helps keep the fur in the condition necessary for growth and warmth.

Good nutrition helps the healthy growth of their skin and coat as well. A high quality dog food such as CANIDAE Grain Free PURE has the ingredients necessary to help maintain a shiny coat and healthy underlying skin.

Be Prepared

Don’t assume that because your dog has a fur coat, she can handle the cold. Short haired dogs may not have the layering necessary to maintain their body heat. If you see your dog trying to burrow under anything warm or cuddling against you, she may be cold. Dogs do shiver as well.

Invest in a good warm dog coat or sweater that covers her belly and goes from neck to tail. Consider booties designed for the cold if your dog will be outside in the extreme cold for extended periods.

Bring along warm bedding for your dog that is appropriate to the level of extreme cold, even for your vehicle. Keep towels with you in case you have to dry off a wet, shivering dog. Bring a small shovel as well, in case you have to dig out a spot for your dog to relieve herself.

After Care

If you take your dog for outings in icy or snowy weather, check their body for any signs of frostbite or discomfort from being outside, particularly the nose, feet and ears. If your dog’s feet are too cold or her paws are covered in snow, ice or debris when you return Dog-Animated-no-offerfrom an outdoor excursion, warm and clean her feet gently with warm water and soft cloths. Dry them gently and thoroughly.

For daily bathroom outings, dig an area that is not covered in ice and snow. Some dogs will resist even stepping out in the cold weather. Making a clear area for them will encourage them to do their business outside and make it more tolerable for them.

Very cold temperatures can dry out skin and cause itchy flaky skin or contribute to illness such as respiratory infections.  A skin conditioner appropriate for dogs can help keep the dry skin moisturized. Keep your dog hydrated with plenty of available drinking water.

Safety First and Warnings

The age and condition of your dog affects how well they can handle extremely cold temperatures. Puppies, elderly dogs and short haired dogs may need a little extra help with a dog sweater or coat. Obviously, a sick or injured dog is not going to be able to handle the extreme temperatures as well. Don’t let a dog that is not used to the cold run off leash and wander off. Their sense of smell can be affected by extreme cold weather conditions. Snow masks odors.

Cold temperatures may mean the use of open fireplaces and sometimes space heaters. Keep an eye on your dog to make sure she is not getting too close to the heat sources where she can get burned, even at an outside bonfire or campfire.

Emergency Care

If your dog does get wounds of any kind from being in the cold, treat the wounds appropriately. If her skin gets frostbitten, it may look discolored to a whitish, gray or even red color. Frost bitten skin can even peel off and hurt. Get your dog to someplace warm. Put warm moist towels on the affected areas and change the warm dressings until the dog winter travel russellarea looks more normal and flushed with color again. Then get to a vet for proper treatment.

Products used for de-icing or helping to melt ice and snow can be toxic to your dog. Try to keep your dog away from those types of products, and be sure to wash off their paws or any exposed areas that may have come in contact with those chemicals.

Tips and Tricks

Bring along some potty pads for your dog to use in case you are both stuck inside.

Carry a waterproof tarp in case your dog has to lie on the ground outside for extended periods.

You can use a non-toxic cooking spray to help keep the skin on her paws moisturized and protected.

Winter can be a fun time with your dog, but think safety and protection when you are taking your dog traveling and exploring out in the cold. If you are cold, chances are your dog will be, too.

Top photo by Steve Jurvetson/Flickr
Bottom photo by Andrew E. Russell/Flickr

Read more articles by Laurie Darroch

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