Extreme Cold Weather Safety for Service Dogs
2019 ushered in frigid weather and extreme cold across the United States. In late January and early February, the Midwestern states experienced subzero temperatures lasting days. Experts say staying in offers the most safety for humans and dogs alike, but for many Service Dog teams, particularly those that rely on public transportation, that's just not feasible. Keep reading to learn more about extreme cold weather safety for Service Dogs. Dangers of Extreme Cold Weather Whether or not there's snow on the ground, dangers of extreme cold abound. First, there's the cold itself. Exposure to cold for long enough results in a dangerous condition called "hypothermia." Hypothermia occurs when the body cannot keep itself warm. It most frequently occurs in those exposed to the elements or in those who are inappropriately dressed for the weather. When the cold is extreme enough, even a few minutes is enough to cause damage. Wind compounds the problem by making it feel colder than the actual temperature. Humidity and water cause the body to lose heat even quicker. Fun Fact: "According to physics experts, the freezing point of saliva is typically between -30 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit." Staying warm in extreme weather requires lots of energy. The body needs quality fuel in order to maintain its core body temperature. A core body temperature of 101 - 102.5F requires a dog's metabolism to work harder than a human's to stay warm. As such, a lack of calories can be a danger of extremely cold weather. On a similar note, biting winds and below freezing temps create a lack of available drinking water. Contrary to popular belief, it's very difficult to eat enough snow to meet a body's daily water needs. Additionally, melting that snow and heating it to body temp wastes valuable calories and energy. Finally, extreme weather brings lots of chemical use, especially in cities. Salt helps control ice. Antifreeze is everywhere. Businesses cover sidewalks in silt or sand to increase traction. Antifreeze is deadly to most animals, including dogs, and salt can cause digestive upsets and chemical burns. Factors That Affect Cold Tolerance Many people believe that dogs are adapted to survive outdoors. While that may have once been true, for many of today's domesticated canines, things have changed. In contrast with their wolfy ancestors, many dog breeds now have a short, thin coat and are more adapted to chilling on the living room floor than to running in the forest hunting down food.