Kingstonist’s Wizard of Paws: Winter and cold a safety tips for pets

Dr. Llera’s dogs, Keltie and Rudy, suited up to enjoy some outdoor time in the winter weather.

Winter is upon us and, though you may want to stay inside where it’s warm and curl up by the fire or under a blanket, your dogs still need to get outside to at least use the bathroom. Admit it, we all probably gain a little weight over the holidays, but some dogs will want to stay out longer and can benefit from the exercise. Cold-weather breeds such as huskies, malamutes, and Newfoundlands generally do pretty well in colder temperature, but there are so many other breeds of dogs or those which may have some medical issues that, in some cases, you need to take some extra precautions.

Short to minimal hair breeds such as Chinese Cresteds or Boston Terriers are a great example of dogs that may need to bundle up. Similarly, slender dogs in general that do not have a lot of body fat or muscle mass can be more susceptible to frigid temperatures. But if you look at the other side, even the longer haired dogs don’t escape the wrath of the cold and snow. For any of those dogs who love to dive through the snow or roll around in it, long hair and water don’t mix to create a manageable, healthy hair coat. Matted or tangled fur can subsequently lead to skin rashes, so coats, even for these pooches, aren’t a bad idea, unless you’re superbly committed to brushing them.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m outside in the middle of January shoveling snow, it gets a harder to breathe. The reason this happens is that cold air will cause some constriction of your airways. When you look at anatomy, pugs, bulldogs,


Maltese and other brachycephalic breeds already have a high risk of breathing problems that can be compounded in the brutal cold if they are exposed for too long or get to be too active. Dogs that also have pre-existing breathing problems like asthma should be closely monitored and if you notice your dog having any breathing issues, get them checked out by your veterinarian. The best course of action is to take a safe approach and limit any hyperactivity outside. Additionally, it can help if you keep your home inside at a comfortable temperature without being too hot and with a controlled humidity to make the transition outdoors easier.

There are a few other hazards which are simple to prevent. Frostbite can unfortunately happen to both cats and dogs that are outside for prolonged periods of time, especially ear tips. Make sure you bring cats in from the cold and keep a timer to know when it’s time go back inside from outdoor activities with your dog. Just after a freshly fallen snow and then a further drop in temperature, we can see a slight ice layer on top of the snow. While smaller dogs may not be heavy enough to step through this, heavier or more energetic dogs may bust through that layer which, if the conditions are proper, can lead to cuts on paws or legs, so some boots might come in handy. And while you’re getting Rover fitted for boots, get something with some traction, as icy conditions can lead to slip and fall injuries. For these dogs, nails can be broken, hip arthritis can be worsened, or ligaments can be torn.

So, just like any other time of the year, you are your pet’s best bet to stay healthy by taking a few precautionary measures. After all, in the cold weather, you would rather spend your time surrounded by family, friends, and pets rather than at an animal emergency room. Enjoy the winter and remember: some simple steps can help ensure your pet enjoys it, too!

Dr. Llera’s dogs, Keltie and Rudy, taking a break from playing in the snow.

If there’s something you’ve often wondered or questions you have about regarding pets, let us know by email at [email protected].

*Please note that specific medical questions about your pet cannot be addressed and you should speak with your personal veterinarian.


Dr. Ryan Llera is a small animal veterinarian at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic. Though originally from Florida, he married a Canadian (who is also a vet!) and they share their home with two cats, two dogs, two horses, and a rabbit. Dr. Llera also contributes writing to various other animal and veterinary related blogs. You can find more of his writing at, or see what else he is up to on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Disclaimer: All columns are personally written and my opinion, and may not necessarily reflect those of current or former employers.

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