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Is It Too Cold to Walk the Dog?

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This winter has been brutal, and it's not even over yet! We have to hang in there for another two months before the ice even thinks about melting. And with the temperatures dropping daily, it's hard not to wonder: Just how cold is too cold for our pets? Are winter booties enough to keep your pooches from freezing during their morning stroll?

Thanks to Kim Smyth, DVM, a staff veterinarian with the pet insurance company Petplan, you'll never have to worry again. Dr. Smyth created an easy-to-read chart — based on an assessment scale developed at Tufts University — that breaks down when it's safe to take your pet outside. In addition to pet size, the chart also takes wind chill, the actual temperature, and how it feels into account.

(Photo Credit: Petplan)

"Much like the handy color-coded chart that my son's teachers reference before making a decision regarding playground time in the winter, it factors in the outdoor temperature and other variables and lays the answers out in a simple system," Smyth wrote in a Petplan blog post. "Red for potentially life-threatening, orange for danger, yellow for caution, and green for safe."

Signs of Hypothermia in Pets

Of course the chart has a few "gray" areas, which can be seen in blue. Blue areas of the chart show when the temperature is low and wet, which can "tip" the chart depending on your pup's size and breed. And as you'd probably assume, smaller dogs with thinner coats are more at risk.

Smyth also claims lifestyle plays a big factor.

"If your dog is acclimated to cold weather, like many hunting and working dogs, his number on the TACC scale is different than if he’s used to lying in a warm bed all winter like my dog," Smyth continued.

Pets and Hypothermia

Just like humans, pets are at risk of hypothermia whenever they're left outside in the cold for long periods of time.

"Symptoms of hypothermia in pets range from weakness and shivering to inaudible heartbeat and trouble breathing, depending on severity," Smyth wrote.

If you come across a pet who looks as though they're suffering from hypothermia, Smyth suggests calling a vet and moving the animal to a warm area immediately.

Easy Ways to Exercise Your Dog in Cold Weather

If it's too cold to play inside, why not try a fun inside game? There are several ways to give your dog exercise without bracing the terrible winter weather. Racing up and down the stairs, for example, is a great way for you and your pup to get a little exercise. You could also play tug-of-war or practice Dog Yoga. If you're short on time, there are plenty of indoor doggy daycare centers that would be more than happy to take care of your pooch while you're away at work.

Winter can be a dangerous for pets and pet owners alike. And when it comes to making decisions on your pup's behalf, use common sense. Like Smyth says, if the chart suggests it's a "lime green" kind of day, but you know your pet will still be too cold, keep him inside!

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