When is it too cold to walk your dog? How to keep your pets warm on winter outings

The UK experienced its coldest night of the year on Monday, January 16, with temperatures dropping to as low as 9.8°C in Topcliffe, North Yorkshire, and parts of the South West having heavy snowfall.

The Met Office has issued four yellow weather warnings for snow and ice across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and a yellow and amber warning in Scotland.

Amid plummeting temperatures, it’s important that we look after our four-legged friends such as cats and dogs.

If you’re a dog owner, here are some top tips on how to keep your pet safe and warm on wintry walks.

When is it too cold to walk your dog?

A pet’s size helps to determine when it’s safe for it to play outside in the cold. Use caution when the temperature drops below about 7°C . Below this, it’s too cold for your dog to swim.

It’s potentially unsafe for little or medium-sized dogs with thin coats to be outside. However, large dogs with heavier coats might be an exception.

When the temperature drops to -7°C and below, all dogs are at a higher risk of hypothermia and frostbite.

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How to keep your dog warm in cold weather

Some dogs have thick furry coats all year round so, as the weather gets colder, it’s worth letting them grow longer to give them added protection. Some shorter-haired breeds may need more help staying warm and so would need to wear a coat in colder weather.

If it’s dark, it’s worth making sure your dog is visible to other owners. As such, adding a reflective coat with a flashing collar or light attachment could help.

This can be a new experience for some dogs and needs to be introduced in a gradual and positive way. This will help your dog to enjoy wearing its equipment for winters to come.

How to supervise your pets in cold weather

Stay near your dog while it is playing or otherwise outside. If you feel uncomfortable in cold weather, the chances are your dog does too.

Be aware of the possibility of hypothermia — if your dog shows signs such as shaking, lethargy, stiff muscles, low heart rate or dilated pupils, it’s important to act quickly. Call a vet or move it into a warmer area.