With more and more people choosing to cool-weather or off-season camp, naturally more canines will be coming along. And while you may think the cooler temperatures give you an advantage in caring for your dog, there are care tips specifically to help them handle the cold weather well.
1. Know your dog’s physical limits. If you have a small dog or a dog that is older or a dog that doesn’t have much in the way of insulation, then colder weather is going to be a lot more uncomfortable for the dog. To counter that, you need ways to keep a dog warm. A dog coat or sweater can be a great asset for when you’re outdoors. In the RV, make sure you have a blanket and a cozy bed in which your dog can curl up. There are even heated beds on the market, if you’re willing to use the electricity. Older dogs need special care as they tend to me more fragile and more susceptible to injury, and dogs with certain medical conditions such as arthritis can feel worse thanks to the colder temperatures. Going camping when it’s cold may not be a good idea for some dogs because of these reasons; however, you know your dog best and need to make that decision.
2. Plan according to your dog’s activity level. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing may sound fun for us, but if we want to bring the dog along, there are some things to consider. First, is the dog physically capable? Is the dog in shape to handle the chosen activity? An overweight, older, or ailing dog may not be able to come along. Second, can your dog handle the time and terrain you’ll encounter during your outing? If there’s deep snow to trudge through for the dog, can the dog make it through without getting hurt and be able to keep up with you? If you’re going outside to enjoy the cold weather, bring along everything your dog could need, including a leash, water, light snacks, and a pet-specific first aid kit. Know the location of the nearest vet in case of an emergency.
3. Never leave your dog in a vehicle. Summer heat can cause the internal temperature of a tow vehicle or toad to rise dangerously quick if the air isn’t running continuously. Likewise, vehicles can become ice boxes in cold weather if the heat isn’t left running, leading to hypothermia and possibly death. It’s better to leave the dog, if you have to, in a comfortably heated RV. The best thing to do is to bring the dog along with you or leave the dog behind at the campsite under supervision.
4. Protect those paws. Snow can build up in a dog’s paws, causing discomfort and an unusual gait, increasing the risk of injury. Cutting down hair between the toes can help make this less likely. Ice can cut into a dog’s paws, too. After being outdoors with your pet when there’s snow on the ground, check your dog’s paws for abrasions and treat accordingly. If your dog is outside a lot, it may be beneficial to treat the paws with Vaseline or paw balm (like what is used for sled dogs) or to strap on some booties – with traction, of course. It’s also important to wipe down paws, as deicers, antifreeze, or other toxic chemicals may be lingering, posing a hazard to your dog’s health if they lick their paws.
5. Keep your dog on a balanced diet. Overweight dogs tend to have more problems, including in cold weather. Talk with your vet about whether or not you need to increase your dog’s portions during feeding time. Avoid offering fat-heavy scraps to your dog, and keep human food inaccessible.