Are cold temperatures safe for dogs? Winter safety tips for pet owners

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The idea of an “outside dog,” one that is tough enough to withstand winter’s icy grip, is a myth, animal experts say.

It’s just one of the dangers the season presents to man’s best friend. 

“There isn’t one temperature that’s a hard and fast rule for all pets, but the best general rule is if it is too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet,” said Lori Bierbrier, senior medical director for ASPCA Community Medicine in New York City. “It’s best to only keep your dog outside long enough to use the restroom during severe winter weather.”

Varying factors, like breed, age, coat, health and activity levels, can come into play, say animal-care experts. But when the wind starts whipping or the mercury drops, it’s time to bring your pooch in.

Weather Enterprise.  Kristen Agle of Hawthorne walks her dog Fenley 2, protected from the cold, rain and salt with a sweater, weatherproof vest and boots January 5, 2014.

What are the signs of hypothermia? 

In icy, snowy conditions, your dog will have the same troubles as you: Maintaining body temperature in winter weather is difficult, and the risk of hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature, is real. 

“Hypothermia can range from mild to severe, resulting in impaired consciousness and even death,” Bierbrier said in an email. Signs include “shivering, inactivity, paleness of the skin, lethargy, muscle stiffness, shallow breathing, and fixed and dilated pupils.” 

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