Dogs Living in Sub-Zero Temperatures

by Betty Lewis
    "This is my kind of weather."

    "This is my kind of weather."

    Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images

    Certain breeds do well when the mercury drops below freezing or even zero. Dogs such as Alaskan malamutes or Siberian huskies almost seem to be made for the cold, with their thick coats and sturdy builds. Other dogs, such as chihuahuas or greyhounds, don't have sufficient body fat or thick enough coats to withstand sub-zero temperatures, even for a short while. If you are considering keeping your dog outside, make sure she can handle the cold.

    Safe Shelter

    If Kody is going to stay outside in sub-zero temperatures, he must have adequate shelter. A large doghouse that can hold blankets or straw bedding is a good idea, but make sure the opening is not facing the prevailing wind. The house should be large enough for him to move around in yet small enough to contain and warm him with his own body heat. It's also a good idea to slightly elevate the house to keep it off the frozen ground. Change the bedding regularly, particularly if you live in a place that gets a lot of rain or snow. If you heat your dog's shelter, provide a safe, professional installation. Dogs can chew cords that lead to heating pads or lights, creating a serious hazard.

    Outdoor Hazards

    Check your dog daily for signs of frostbite or skin irritations. Snow and ice can build up between Kody's pads. If Kody has access to salted areas, check his paws. Salt or ice melts, or leaking antifreeze ingested by licking his paws, can make him sick or burn his pads.

    Grooming and Nutrition

    Regular grooming of an outdoor dog is very important. If your dog has a long, thick coat, he'll be prone to getting tangles and other debris stuck in his fur, which decreases the amount of warmth his coat provides. A healthy coat will help keep him properly insulated and protected against the elements.
    Food and water are vital for ensuring Kody's health if he's spending long periods outdoors. In sub-zero temperatures, he'll use a lot of energy to keep warm, so be sure he eats extra calories through the winter. The dog food he eats should be high quality and contain a higher amount of fat instead of carbohydrates. He should always have access to plenty of fresh water. Check the water periodically to make sure it hasn't frozen over. Snow and ice are not acceptable substitutes for fresh water.

    Coming Inside

    Sometimes it is simply too cold for a dog to be outside. The signs of exposure include searching for places to burrow, whining, shivering, slow or little movement, refusing to come out of his dog house, showing signs of anxiety or keeping a curled position. If you see any of these signs, it's time to bring him indoors.

    Photo Credits

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    About the Author

    Betty Lewis is a writer and editor specializing in pet care, animals, careers and emergency management. She previously ran an animal shelter, where she also served as a kennel attendant and dog trainer. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism, an M.B.A. and a master's degree in professional studies.

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