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Cold weather and your dog

Snow dog
Snow dog

While the rest of the country is being assaulted by another Polar Vortex, Alaska is basking in temperatures in the 40's. Winter weather affects your dog whether it comes in the form of rain or sub-zero temperatures and snow. Recent news stories have reported dogs in the "Lower 48" suffering from frostbite and even death. Whether their humans were ignorant or just not prepared for unusual weather the dogs suffered. As humans we are supposed to be the responsible ones.

So, how long can your dog stay outside in the cold weather? Some dogs (especially dogs used to being outside) tolerate the cold better than dogs that are primarily indoor dogs and not acclimated to the cold. Some breeds are better suited for the cold with thick arctic hair coats. There are a couple concerns about being out in the cold. Hypothermia (an overall low body temperature resulting from being out in the cold for a prolonged period of time) and frostbite. Both of these occurs when exposed to extreme cold and are exacerbated by a wind chill or being wet. If your dog is in good health and to answer the question – if it is 32 degrees F. – I think you can be out for 30 to 45 minutes. If you are comfortable and your dog seems to be happy being out – that is probably fine. If it is 10 degrees F.– I'd probably keep the walk fairly short – 5 to 10 minutes.

A dog is usually happiest and healthiest when kept indoors. If for some reason your dog is outdoors much of the day, he or she must be protected by a dry, draft-free shelter that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to hold in his/her body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The house should be turned to face away from the wind, and the doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.

It is our responsibility to care for the well being of our dogs. If it is too cold for you it is probably too cold for your dog.