Hot and Cold Weather Care and Recommendations
Care | Cold Weather
Hot Weather Care and Recommendations:
Introduction: Dogs do not necessarily
adapt easily to hot weather. Because they do not sweat, it is important to
devise strategies to keep dogs cool and comfortable during hot weather. During
warm weather, dogs are also at increased risk from external parasites, biting
insects, inhalant allergies, and heartworm disease. The following are basic hot
weather care recommendations:
- Provide fresh water at all times:
Water is an essential nutrient; dogs need water on a daily basis to prevent
dehydration and to ensure proper functioning of the body. The dog’s need
for water increases as the temperature rises. All dogs should have access to
clean water at all times. Water bowls should be kept in shaded areas to
prevent heating and evaporation. Because they keep water cooler than metal
or plastic bowls, clay or ceramic bowls should be used. Bowls should be
secured so they cannot tip or spill. Water should be changed a minimum of
once per day. In addition to drinking water, a tub or child’s pool filled
with clean water will give dogs the opportunity to submerge themselves and
- Provide shelter from the sun: All dogs
need protection from the burning rays of the sun. The shelter needs to be a
permanent structure large enough to shield the dog no matter where the sun
is in the sky. Do not tie the dog under a tree and expect the shade to last
all day. The ideal shelter in extremely hot weather is the owner’s house.
Dogs that are left outside should have a doghouse or shelter that allows
them to get off the ground and is well ventilated. Putting the doghouse
under an overhang or shade tree will keep the interior cooler. If the dog is
kept in a concrete run, make sure the animal has access to a raised surface
off the concrete. Concrete exposed to the sun heats up rapidly and cools too
slowly to provide a comfortable surface for the dog.
- Protect your dog from heatstroke: Dogs only cool by panting; they
cannot sweat. As the outside temperature rises, panting becomes less
effective and dogs can easily overheat. Old, young, obese, and ill dogs are
at greater risk of overheating, as are dogs with short noses and flat faces.
Dogs can easily overheat during exercise or if they lack adequate water and
shelter from the sun. To prevent heatstroke, limit exercise, provide plenty
of cool water and shade, and keep the dog out of parked cars, closed crates,
and poorly ventilated rooms. Monitor the dog for signs of overheating.
Dogs that are overheating will look anxious, pant excessively, and have a
rapid heart rate. The nose, legs, and ears will be hot to the touch. The
mouth and tongue can be bright red or purple. As the condition worsens and
heat stroke occurs, the tongue may swell and the animal can develop
diarrhea. The condition can progress to weakness, coma, and death.
A dog that is suffering from heatstroke must be cooled immediately to
prevent permanent damage or death. Move the dog to a cool area and cover the
animal with cool water. Place ice packs wrapped in a towel in the armpits
and around the head. Do not submerge the dog in ice. As soon as cooling has
begun, seek emergency veterinary treatment.
- Protect your dog from sunburn: Although most dogs are not prone to
sunburn, dogs with pink skin and white hair are susceptible to the harmful
rays of the sun. Skin that is visible through the hair is at risk of
burning. The nose and earflaps are also vulnerable. Areas that are exposed
to excess sun will turn red, blister, lose hair, and crust over. Chronic
exposure can predispose the nose and earflaps to skin cancers. Sunburned
skin should be cooled with cold compresses and may require veterinary care.
Dogs with white hair, pink skin, and sensitive noses and earflaps should be
sheltered from the sun during its peak hours. Dogs with chronic sunburn on
the nose should wear sunscreen before sun exposure.
- Protect your dog from fleas and ticks: Ticks and fleas are most
active during the warm months. Both of these external parasites feed on the
blood of the dog and can spread diseases. Fleas are responsible for
transmitting the plague, act as intermediate hosts for dog tapeworms, and
can cause severe allergic skin inflammation on dogs. Ticks carry the
organisms that cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and
ehrlichiosis. Tick toxins can cause paralysis in both dogs and humans. Dogs
should be checked for fleas and ticks on a daily basis.
Fleas can be controlled with sprays, powders, shampoos, dips, collars, oral
medications, and several brands of topical spot-on products that are applied
intermittently to the dog’s skin. Long-term adequate control is typically
achieved by combining a hormone product that prevents eggs and larvae from
maturing with insecticides that kill adult fleas. Spot-on products are
typically applied at monthly intervals.
Ticks can be controlled with sprays, shampoos, dips, collars, and topical
spot-on products. Even with the use of these products, dogs should be
checked daily for ticks. Any ticks found on the dog should be removed to
prevent the spread of disease organisms from the tick to the dog. Flea combs
and the sticky rollers used to remove lint from clothing are good tools to
catch the small seed ticks that can be overlooked. The tiny ticks catch in
the tines of the comb and are picked up by the adhesive on the lint brush.
Gloves should be worn to remove embedded ticks. Using gloved fingers or
commercially available tick forceps, the tick should be grasped as near to
the mouthparts as possible. Traction is used to pull the tick out of the
skin. The tick should not be twisted during removal. Avoid contact with the
tick with bare hands. See F770 for additional information.
- Protect your dog from heartworm disease: Heartworm disease occurs
whenever and wherever mosquitoes are biting. Heartworm infection is most
common during the warmer months of the year. See page F310 for a complete
discussion of heartworm disease. Dogs should be kept on a heartworm
preventative medication throughout the mosquito season. Puppies can be
started on preventative at their first veterinary visit. All adult dogs need
to be blood tested for heartworm disease prior to being started on
preventative. Dogs on year round heartworm preventatives should still be
tested annually. Dogs already suffering from heartworm disease need to be
treated for the disease, not placed on preventative. Giving the preventative
to a dog with heartworm disease can result in the dog’s death. Once the
dog is treated for heartworm disease, the dog can then be placed on the
preventative to avoid reintroduction of heartworms.
There are several types of preventative products available, including a
daily tablet, several brands of monthly tablets, a monthly spot-on topical
solution, and an injection that lasts for six months. Many of these
heartworm prevention products also kill other internal and external
- Protect your dog from insect stings: Bees, wasps, hornet, and ants
are most active in the warm months. Dogs that investigate hives and nests
can end up with multiple stings, often centered in their mouths and on their
faces. Local reactions to stings include pain, swelling, redness, heat, and
itching at the site of the sting. Generalized allergic reactions can include
tremendous swelling, difficulty breathing, a drop in blood pressure, shock,
and death. Steps should be taken to prevent stings by eliminating hives and
nests in the yard and around the home.
Treatment for an insect sting includes scraping the stinger out of the skin
with a credit card or butter knife or removing it with tweezers, then
applying ice to the swelling. A veterinarian may recommend oral
antihistamines to control pain and itching. If the dog is having a
generalized (whole body) reaction with severe swelling and difficulty
breathing, the animal must be seen immediately by a veterinarian. Dogs that
have a severe reaction to an insect sting will most likely have the same
reaction if stung again, so the veterinarian will recommend emergency
medications to be kept at home.
- Protect your dog from bites: Biting flies, spiders, and even snakes
are also more active during warm months. Steps should be taken to keep a pet
away from animals that can inflict dangerous bites. Removing garbage and
debris, providing shelter for the dog, and putting food bowls away can
discourage flies. Fly repellent can be applied to the dog’s face and ears.
Sick and debilitated pets should be kept indoors; outdoors they are easy
targets for flies.
Spiders can inflict painful bites that become swollen and cause severe
damage to the tissues involved. The black widow spider and brown recluse
spider can inflict bites that require immediate medical care. Spiders should
be removed from the dog’s living areas. Snakes bites can result in the
loss of a limb or even the death of the dog. Snakes can be discouraged by
keeping the lawn mowed and cleaning up hiding places such as brush piles,
long grasses, and heavy vegetation.
- Protect your dog from toxins and poisons: Lawn care products such
as herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers are all potential toxins for
dogs. Keep these and other house and yard maintenance products from dogs to
prevent poisonings. Car care products such as antifreeze, coolants, and oils
are extremely dangerous for dogs. Steps need to be taken to avoid accidental
contact or consumption. Keep these products in tightly sealed containers
away from animals, clean up spills immediately, and remove pets from the
area when changing the car’s antifreeze.
- Protect your dog from contagious diseases: Dogs and their owners
are more active in the warm months. Recreational activities bring dogs
together at parks, lakes, beaches, and social gatherings. Increased exposure
to other dogs increases the risk of exposure to contagious disease.
Maintaining current vaccinations will provide protection against dog
diseases such as distemper, parvovirus enteritis, leptospirosis, and kennel
cough. Current vaccinations are a requirement for many untreatable,
potentially fatal diseases such as rabies. See page A905 for vaccination
- Control summer allergies: Flowering plants and grasses can cause
inhalant and contact allergies in dogs. Contact allergies occur when the dog
touches a substance that creates an allergic response at the point of
contact. Common warm weather contact allergens include grasses and plants
that the dog lies on, such as jasmine. Signs of a contact allergy include
itchy, red, bumpy skin at the point of contact. Inhalant allergies occur
when the dog inhales pollens and spores from plants, trees, grasses, and
molds. These animals have itchy skin, especially on the face and feet.
Because it is difficult to remove the source of warm weather allergies, most
dogs are treated with medications to control the allergic response. These
medications may include antihistamines, corticosteroids, and allergy serum
See page F770 for additional allergy information.
- Protect your dog from seasonal activities: It is tempting to
include a pet in warm weather, seasonal activities such as picnics in the
park, vacation travel, and firework displays. Care must be taken to ensure
the dog’s safety during these outings. Provide adequate restraint, food,
and water for a pet that will be away from home. It may be necessary to
carry food and water from home. Make sure that there is a shelter, pavilion,
or overhang to shade the dog from the sun. Soft-sided, crate-like enclosures
that screen the sun, allow ventilation for cooling, and safely restrain the
dog can be purchased from many retailers. The dog should be wearing current
identification, and be kept on a leash. If the animal is not acclimated to
fireworks, it may be better off left at home.
- Protect your dog from the beach: Many owners
bring their dogs to the beach. It is important to make sure that the dog is
allowed at the site; if not allowed on the beach, the dog cannot be left in
the car. Make sure that the dog knows how to swim. The ocean is not the
place to teach a dog to swim. Dogs should be taught to swim in shallow, calm
waters. Even dogs that are accomplished swimmers may have trouble with the
tides, currents, and waves found in the ocean. If the water is too dangerous
or too rough for humans, dogs should not be allowed in either.
Provide shelter from the sun and sand. Dogs should be allowed under an
umbrella or overhang, and onto a blanket or towel. This will cool the dog
and protect it from insects that live in the sand. Prevent the dog from
drinking ocean water by providing an abundant source of cool water. Protect
the dog from jellyfish and other sea creatures that can inflict bites and
pinches. Keep overweight dogs from over-exercising in loose sand to avoid
strains and sprains. Wash or rinse the pet to remove sand and salt after a
day at the beach.
- Protect your dog from boats: Many owners like to take their dogs
boating. Dogs that go on boats should be accomplished swimmers that enjoy
the activity. Dogs should be first acclimated to the boat at the dock, then
brought on short voyages on calm waters. Dogs, like humans, can suffer from
motion sickness, so the dog should be watched for signs of nausea. Motion
sickness medications can be used under a veterinarian’s supervision.
Care should be taken to prevent the dog from accidentally going overboard.
Dogs, like people, should wear life vests. Life vests for dogs have handles
that allow the dogs to be picked up out of the water if necessary. Dogs
should not be tied on board a boat; if the boat capsizes, the dog will
drown. Potable water should be carried for the dog while on board.
Cold Weather Care and Recommendations:
Introduction: Even though dogs have
fur that insulates them from the cold, they are still susceptible to the ill
effects of low temperatures. Dogs can suffer from hypothermia, frostbite,
dehydration, and malnutrition during the cold months. It is important to devise
strategies to protect and shelter them. The following are some basic cold
weather care recommendations that should be considered:
that are very young, very old, or suffering from disease lack the stamina of
young, healthy adult dogs. The stresses associated with cold weather will have
a greater effect on these animals. They are less able to maintain their body
weight, more likely to chill rapidly, and more likely to fall or be injured.
Their immune system is less able to fight off disease, so they are more likely
to become ill. Care should be taken to provide these animals with extra
protection from the rigors of cold weather. These animals should be housed in
a warm, dry indoor environment, and their general health should be monitored.
Body weight and fat should be accessed to make sure that the animals are not
losing weight. All cold weather precautions should be followed in order to
provide for the proper care of these animals.
- Provide fresh water at all times: Dogs must have access to clean
water at all times of the year. Cold weather does not diminish the need for
a constant supply of water. Snow and ice do not replace water. Fresh,
unfrozen water needs to be available on a continual basis. A heater may be
needed to keep water from freezing. Large, ceramic bowls are better than
metal bowls for holding water; the dog’s tongue may stick to a cold, metal
- Provide shelter from rain, snow, and wind: All dogs, no matter the
length and thickness of their coats, need protection from winter
precipitation and wind. A proper structure keeps the dog warm, dry, out of
drafts, and up off the damp ground. The best structure is the owner’s
house. If the dog cannot be kept in the house, a doghouse or similar
structure must be constructed. The house should be large enough to allow the
dog to turn around and lie down in, but small enough for the dog’s body to
heat. It should be insulated to reduce heat loss to the outside. Traditional
wooden doghouses with an open front and peaked roof are not suitable for
most winter environments. The wood is a poor insulator, prone to rot, and
attractive to insects. The open door allows cold air to fill the house. A
better design is a plastic resin house with an offset door and a covering
flap. Houses should be elevated off the ground, faced away from the
prevailing wind, have a blanket or similar object for bedding, and be placed
under an existing roof or structure. These tactics provide essential
insulation and protection from the elements.
- Protect your dog from hypothermia: Hypothermia is the medical term
for a body temperature below normal. Even though dogs have fur, they can
still lose enough body heat to suffer from hypothermia. Wet, cold dogs are
prime candidates for hypothermia. So are dogs that cannot regulate their
body temperature easily. This includes dogs that are shorthaired, very
young, ill, underweight, or elderly. Once the body temperature starts to
fall, the dog’s internal organs cease to function properly. The dog may
shiver, be cold to the touch, lethargic, suffer from a drop in heart rate
and respiratory rate, and become unresponsive. Never neglect a dog showing
these signs because hypothermia can be fatal.
Treatment consists of warming the dog with hot water bottles, hair dryers,
or heating pads. Treatment must be immediate, but done slowly enough to
avoid burns. Heating pads should be covered with a towel and hair dryers set
on low. The dog should be turned to prevent overheating one side of the body and to stimulate circulation. Once the process is
started and the dog
begins to warm up, it should be wrapped in a blanket and immediately
transferred to the veterinarian for further treatment.
Keeping a dog warm and dry can prevent hypothermia. Wind and water rob a dog
of heat, so shelter is a necessity. Dogs that are wet and cold should be
brought indoors and dried. Dogs with short hair coats can be protected with
sweaters or coats designed for dogs. Because they only warm the dog’s
body, coats are not a substitute for shelter and they must cleaned
frequently to maintain their insulating properties. They will, however, keep
short-haired dogs comfortable when the thermometer drops.
- Protect your dog from frostbite: Frostbite occurs when the body
tissues become so cold that circulation is impaired and damage results.
Areas prone to frostbite include ears, feet, and the tip of the tail. These
parts of the dog often lack hair and receive decreased blood flow when the
dog’s body is chilled. Feet are especially prone to frostbite because snow
and ice can pack between the toes, providing a direct source of cold.
Frostbitten areas will initially turn white and may lose hair. If warmed,
the tissue will redden and swell. Frostbite is very painful. Dogs with
frostbite should have the affected areas slowly and gently warmed. Avoid
vigorous rubbing and extremely high temperatures, because this will cause
more damage to already devitalized tissues. Once treatment is begun, the dog
should be brought to the veterinarian for further care. Response to
treatment varies depending on the extent of tissue damage. If damage is not
severe, recovery is possible, although the hair may not grow back, or it may
grow in white. Some frostbitten areas do not recover and often require
- Protect your dog from malnutrition: Like most people, many dogs do
not require more calories just because it is cold outside. However, dogs
that spend a great deal of time outside or those that work and run during
the winter may need additional calories to meet their bodies’ demands.
Calories can be increased by increasing the total amount of food given to
the animal or by increasing the amount of fat in the diet. Some dogs can
literally not eat a large enough amount of dry food to meet their caloric
needs during the winter. These dogs will need added energy and fats to
increase the number of calories per bite. The goal is to maintain optimum
weight all year, no matter what the actual outside temperature. If a dog is
outside, it should be regularly checked to make sure that it is not losing
- Protect your dog from toxins and poisons: The commercial products
used to make life easier in the cold months can be dangerous for dogs. Road
salts and the chemicals designed to melt ice are toxic for dogs. They
irritate the dog’s footpads, can burn skin, and cause mouth irritations if
swallowed. Sand mixed in with the chemicals can abrade pads and skin,
leading to more irritation and secondary infections. The dog’s exposure to
these irritants can be limited by putting boots on the dog and making sure
that ice, snow, and road salt are routinely removed from the feet, chest,
and belly. Rinsing these areas and drying them will remove the chemicals,
melt hardened ice and snow, and remove bacteria. Keeping the feet warm and
dry will help prevent blisters and infections.
Care should also be taken to keep car products, such as antifreeze, away
from dogs. Antifreeze is also used by some owners to prevent freezing of
pipes in a home that is closed for the winter. This type of antifreeze, made
from ethylene glycol, tastes good and is extremely toxic to dogs. Dogs have
been known to chew through the plastic bottle to get to the antifreeze
inside. Antifreeze containers should be wiped clean before storing. They
should be stored in areas that are inaccessible to dogs. Very small amounts
of the product can cause rapid kidney failure and death. If a dog has
consumed antifreeze, the animal should be brought to the veterinarian for
immediate treatment. Do not wait to see if the dog becomes sick; seek
emergency medical care as rapidly as possible.
- Protect your young, old, or infirm dog:
Protect your dog’s feet and pads: Dogs’
paws and pads are often wet, muddy, or covered with snow and ice in the
winter. If not properly treated, lameness and infection can occur. Tiny
abrasions, cuts, and cracks caused by the ice and frozen mud can lead to
lameness. Bacteria and yeast can overgrow in the wet, dirty cracks and lead
to infections of the nail beds and pads. These infections can be painful and
may eventually result in the loss of a nail. In addition, snow, ice, or mud
that is frozen in between the toes can force the toes apart and cause the dog
to walk incorrectly.
Ice that is frozen into clumps along the hair on the leg can pull the hair
away from the skin and cause irritation. In severe cases, packed snow can
impair circulation and lead to frostbite. Finally, road salt, sand, and
de-icing chemicals can cause blisters, irritations, and burns on the feet and
Ice and mud should be removed from the dog’s feet and pads. Clipping long
leg and foot hair to a moderate length may facilitate this winter grooming.
After the ice and snow are removed, the feet can be rinsed and dried to remove
chemicals and dirt. The use of dog boots can help prevent the build-up of ice
and snow that leads to foot irritations.
Protect your dog from burns: More burns occur during winter than
any other time of year. There are many potential sources of excess heat that
can cause burn injuries. These include wood burning and gas fireplaces,
portable electric and propane space heaters, and even electric blankets.
Dogs can be burned by sleeping too close to heat sources, or by flying
embers and sparks. They can knock over space heaters and chew through
electric cords. Sleeping on heating pads or electric blankets can create
hotspots on the dogs’ bodies that lead to burns. Even hot winter beverages
that are accidentally spilled can cause painful burns.
Burns from fireplaces can be prevented by the use of properly placed
screens. Other burns can be prevented by monitoring dogs at all times when
space heaters or heating pads are being used. No dogs should ever be left
alone in a room with any type of space heater. Dogs should not be allowed to
sleep unattended on electric blankets. Dogs should not be allowed to sleep
directly on the surface of a heating pad and should be monitored
continually if one is used.
Accidental burns should be treated immediately by placing ice on the burned
area and seeking veterinary care. The damage caused by a burn can be much
greater than it appears, so a veterinarian should examine all burns.
Protect your dog from accidents: Dogs do not instinctively know how
to handle themselves in the winter. They cannot find their way through
blinding blizzards and can become lost and disoriented. Like people, dogs
can fall on the ice or slippery surfaces and injure themselves. They also
cannot tell if an ice-covered lake, pond, or river is safe to walk across.
Dogs can easily fall through thin ice and drown. Make sure that a pet only
has access to frozen water surfaces that are known to be safe. If a
wintertime activity is not safe for humans, it should not be considered safe
for a dog.
Protect your dog from seasonal holidays: Winter holidays are very
exciting, but are a potential source of danger for a dog. Holiday foods can
be a problem. Do not allow a dog to eat excessive amounts of holiday treats
or leftovers. The result can be digestive upsets, vomiting, diarrhea, and
even a potentially fatal inflammation of the pancreas called pancreatitis.
Avoid letting a dog eat the bones from holiday turkeys or other meats. The
bones can splinter or catch in the digestive tract. Because chocolate is
toxic to animals, do not feed holiday treats rich in this sweet to a dog. A
10 pound dog consuming as little as one ounce of baking chocolate can become
Dogs also need to be protected from the Christmas tree. Do not allow a pet
to chew on Christmas tree needles that fall from the tree. The needles are
very sharp and will irritate the mouth, gums, and tongue and can penetrate
the intestines if swallowed. All dogs should also be prevented from drinking
the water from the tree stand. This water can be contaminated with
insecticides and fertilizers from the tree trunk. Because items such as
wrapping strings, ribbons, and tinsel can lodge in the intestines and create
severe damage and blockages, avoid letting a pet play with them. Hang
ornaments above the level of the dog’s mouth to prevent the dog from
knocking them over and chewing on them. Homemade ginger bread and dough
ornaments are especially attractive to dogs, so hang these ornaments high in
the tree or place a decorative fence around the tree to keep the dog away.
Finally, make sure electric light cords are placed out of reach of a curious
Decorative plants such as poinsettia, holly, Jerusalem cherry, amaryllis,
and mistletoe are poisonous to dogs. These plants should be kept in areas
that the dog cannot reach or be replaced with artificial plants. Holiday
candles should also be kept in inaccessible areas and monitored when lit.
Do not push a dog to interact with visitors if the dog is uncomfortable.
Dogs that are not used to a lot of guests or have never socialized with
children may be uncomfortable in crowded situations. These dogs should be
allowed to leave and relax, undisturbed, in a quiet area of the house. This
can make the holiday more enjoyable for everyone involved.