Keep your pet warm during winter weather.

By Grace Haynes
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Southern Living Heated Doghouse
Keep your pet warm during winter weather.
| Credit: Tudor Costache/Getty Images

Deciding when it's too cold outside for your dog can depend on a handful of factors, including age, activity level, and thickness of their fur. If it's too frigid for you to spend time outdoors, then chances are it's probably too chilly for your pup as well. While dogs can regulate their body temperatures, it's up to the owners to help them stay comfortable when winter weather sets in. During these months, owners should keep an eye on the forecast, and if the weather turns freezing and frightful, bring pets indoors.

While it's safe enough for your dog to stay outside during winter, owners can prep their pets' outdoor quarters for chilly temperatures so he'll snooze soundly and stay warm. For pets that live mostly outdoors in areas with colder climates, owners should consider investing in amenities like a heated doghouse, a heated mat, or a mini furnace that attaches to the inside of the house.

Pet owners can also winterize their pups' existing doghouses. Start by checking the structure for any cracks or holes and patch up any that are found. While the doghouse needs to be spacious enough for your pet, bigger isn't always better when it comes to keeping it insulated. There needs to be enough room for your dog to be able to stand up and turn around, but having too much extra space allows vital body heat to escape from the house rather than trapping it inside for extra warmth.

Another key element for keeping a dog's quarters cozy is to raise the house off the ground by placing it on something like a plywood pallet. This will keep it away from puddles, running water, or any other wet areas outside that could be harmful for pups and prevent the house from staying warm.

For year-round doghouses, owners can add insulation in winter by attaching foil-backed foam boards to the interior. Line the floor with a plush mat, dry straw, or cedar chips that your dog can bed down in. Keep in mind the direction of the wind, and face the doghouse away from harsh winter wind streams (or trying positioning it next to your own house, so it protects from cold wind on one side).

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A few other reminders for caring for dogs during winter: Cold weather can aggravate arthritis in dogs (especially seniors), so take them to the vet for routine checkups before chilly tems set in. Wipe off your dog's paws, legs, and stomachs after walks—this will remove any harsh chemicals like antifreeze that could have been picked up and will keep them dry to avoid hypothermia and frostbite.