Temperatures are already dropping below freezing across the UK this week as a ‘cold plunge of Arctic air’ moves in.

The Met Office is warning that disruptive conditions could hit parts of the UK with snow, ice and even colder temperatures on the way.

For those brave enough to head outdoors, a thick coat, hat, gloves and scarf will be essential – but are dogs as well protected from the elements as we are? Is it actually safe to take them out for a walk in below zero temperatures?

To help owners decide if it’s too cold for ‘walkies’, Johanna Buitelaar-Warden, Founder of luxury pet department store, Lords and Labradors has shared her expert insight, as well as tips and tricks on keeping your pooch nice and cosy.

The Bolton News:

Is it OK to walk your dog in the cold?

Dogs definitely can be walked in the cold, and you shouldn’t let low temperatures be a reason to stop giving them their daily exercise. A walk is likely one of the highlights of your dog’s day (besides dinner time) so if they’re happy to go out, and it’s safe to do so, you should try to take them.

There are some things that you may want to take into consideration before you leave the house, though. 

For example, you should try to walk during the day (between 10am and 2pm). It will be much colder early in the morning and in the evening, so try to stick to mid-morning or early afternoon if you can.

How cold is too cold for a dog walk?

Temperatures around zero are going to be uncomfortable and potentially unsafe for some dog breeds, so popping a coat on them that is correctly sized, can really help take away the chill.

What temperature these will be needed will vary from dog to dog. Typically, smaller dogs, short haired breeds and puppies will get colder than their larger and long-haired counterparts. For puppies and older dogs, we’d recommend exercising extra caution as they could be more vulnerable to the cold too.

There also isn't an exact temperature that your dog will need a coat, but we recommend watching your dog's behaviour and judging from that, remember you know them best!

We’d not recommend that any dog is taken out in temperatures of -10°C or less, even if they have a coat on.

My dog doesn’t like wearing a coat, should I put one on them anyway?

If they don't like wearing a coat then don't force them, the stress isn't worth it for you or them.

Even with a coat on, your dog may still not be that keen to go out. Always be sure to listen to what your best friend is telling you. If they’re refusing to walk, shivering, standing in a hunched position or whining, then you should take them home. 

Should I avoid paths or roads that have been salted/gritted?

Salt can cause irritation of the skin on the paw’s underside and can become painful for your dog, so try to avoid long walks on salted paths if you can.

That said, if you’re taking your dog out during the day then chances are a lot of the salt will have been pushed off the surfaces by then, so it’s less likely to cause irritation. Yet another reason why avoiding early mornings is best if possible!

Should I take my dog on shorter walks when it’s really cold?

Generally, it’s best to cut your walks short when it’s really cold outside. The longer your pup is outside, the lower their body temperature will go, so try to give them a few shorter walks instead of one long walk.

For temperatures above -4℃, medium to large dogs can walk for around half an hour, whereas smaller dogs should be limited to around 20 minutes.

However, do keep in mind that other factors can make it feel colder outside than it actually is. For instance, a strong wind can take a relatively mild day to a freezing cold one. Walking in the snow can be fun, when it’s a lovely sunny day, but if you’re walking in wet sleet or through sludgy snow, your dog’s body temperature can drop quite quickly, even when they’re moving.

Is it OK if my dog eats snow?

Ideally, you should try to stop your dog from eating snow, as this can bring their temperature down which can be dangerous.

When we get back from a walk, what should I do?

Make sure to dry in between their paw pads after a walk and wash off any salt and grit they may have walked through. You can even use some paw balm after to help stop their paw pads from cracking.

Drying them off all over with a blanket or towel is also recommended, to help them warm up and also prevent them from traipsing rock salt and snow around your house!