It seems like every year, as soon as we start getting into the second half of summer, my mind turns to the winter. There’s a lot to do around here to prepare for winter, and some of those things include making sure Janice and Leroy are well-cared for when it gets cold. As short-haired dogs that don’t grow thick undercoats, they need a little consideration in the cold. (Check out my complete guide to winter care for dogs here!) Pit bulls are very similar to Boxers in that they also don’t grow thick undercoats. These dogs need special attention in any kind of extreme weather, including heat.
While the short coat of the pit bull dog can be very convenient during grooming time, it doesn’t lend itself to protecting your dog from any sort of extreme weather or temperatures. This means that you have to pay just a little more attention to your dog in the hottest and coldest months, and any time you travel to an area where the weather is drastically different from your own. Here’s how to keep a pit bull happy and healthy in any sort of extremity.
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Caring for Your Pit Bull in Extreme Heat
You may think that the pit bull’s short coat would make him more comfortable in the heat. And the fact is that dogs with thicker coats are definitely hotter in the summer. However, there’s a very important reason why pit bulls don’t handle heat well – the shape of their snout. Because the pit bull is bred from a bull dog, they do tend to have a shorter nasal passage. This isn’t true of every pit bull – there are many different types of pit bulls, and some have elongated noses, or regular nasal passage lengths. But if your pit bull has a “squashed” face that resembles their bull dog ancestor, you need to pay a bit more attention to them in the summer.
Dogs with shorter nasal passages can’t manage their panting ability as easily as other dogs, and this is their primary means of cooling off in the heat. So it’s a very good idea to know the major signs of heat stroke and to watch your dog for them:
- Very rapid breathing
- Excessive drooling, especially if the drool is thick and ropey
- Seeming very tired or depressed
- Being unable to keep their balance as they walk
- Shaking or having muscle tremors
- Having a temperature above 101.5 degrees
Another big problem for any dog, not just a pit bull, is dehydration. If your dog doesn’t have easy access to cold, fresh water, they could get dehydrated quickly under the sun. The signs of dehydration include:
- Seeming depressed or very tired
- Eyes that appear sunken in
- A very dry tongue or mouth
- The skin doesn’t “snap back” when you pinch the flap at the neck
If you see the signs of heat stroke or dehydration in your dog, take them to a vet. Once they have reached this point, just cooling them off or getting them some water isn’t going to help as much as you’d think. They need to be checked out and possibly given IV fluids.
Another thing that these dogs can face in the hot weather is sunburn. Because their coats are very short, the sun can reach their skin a lot more easily.
So here are some things you can do to care for your pit bull in the heat:[easyazon_image align=”right” cart=”n” cloak=”y” height=”250″ identifier=”B078MYFT8D” locale=”US” localize=”y” nw=”y” nf=”y” src=”https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/516%2Btu9rStL.jpg” tag=”natur0da-20″ width=”250″]
- Be sure you offer your dog shade if they are outdoors. If you are taking a long walk on the [easyazon_link identifier=”B078MYFT8D” locale=”US” nw=”y” nf=”y” tag=”natur0da-20″ cart=”n” cloak=”y” localize=”y” popups=”n”]leash[/easyazon_link]to get in some exercise, try to find some places where you can take a break in a shady spot. Your dog doesn’t sweat, so their bodies need a break from the sun beating down from time to time. If your dog has to be outside at home in the summer for any length of time, make sure there is a cooler, covered area where they can go when they need to.
- Get your dog a kiddie pool! If you have a lake or a pool nearby, it can be nice to take your dog for a swim. Tossing out a fetch toy in the water is a fun way to play. But if you are concerned about their swimming ability, or just want a backyard solution, a little kid’s wading pool is a great way to offer them a place to cool off. The foot pads of a dog are actually one of the few places of the body where they can expel excess heat, so being able to dip their feet into cold water is a big help.
- Give your dog ice in their water, or freeze some fruit to give them as a snack. Be sure it’s a dog-safe fruit like bananas or apples, not grapes! [easyazon_image align=”right” cart=”n” cloak=”y” height=”250″ identifier=”B07CXSYVHZ” locale=”US” localize=”y” nw=”y” nf=”y” src=”https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/31245wu8VkL.jpg” tag=”natur0da-20″ width=”250″]
- Always carry water with you when walking your dog, or taking them anywhere away from home. You can find dog [easyazon_link identifier=”B07CXSYVHZ” locale=”US” nw=”y” nf=”y” tag=”natur0da-20″ cart=”n” cloak=”y” localize=”y” popups=”n”]water bottles[/easyazon_link] that have attached bowls that make for easy drinking. Or just bring a bowl along with you.
- Try rearranging your exercise schedule so that your dog is getting in their walks and playtime during the cooler parts of the day. If your dog has a serious problem with overheating, maybe even consider an indoor option for exercise, like walking and playing in the garage or the basement.
- Use dog sunscreen to protect your pit bull’s skin from the sun.
Overall, it’s important to watch your pit bull for signs of labored breathing, heat stroke, or dehydration, and to take action right away if you see any of them. Being prepared for the hot weather with a few changes to your routine can help save you vet bills, and keep your dog healthy during the hottest months of the summer.
Caring for Your Pit Bull in Extreme Cold
Now let’s talk about taking care of a pit bull during the cold. This may be the more pertinent information, since the pit bull’s short coat doesn’t give them protection from very cold temperatures at all. While they could be perfectly happy in the heat, depending on the snout length and your pit bull’s personality, you’ll be hard pressed to find a pit bull that handles extreme cold well.
How cold is too cold for pit bulls? Anywhere from 40 degrees and below could be problematic. If the weather is also wet, 40 degrees could be uncomfortable. If the weather is dry, lower than 20 degrees is really where you should start to worry. And if the weather is wet and lower than 35 degrees, you should definitely keep your pit bull inside if you can. Here’s an excellent chart from Tufts University that shows how cold is really “too cold” for dogs.
There are several reasons a dog could be uncomfortable in the cold. A short coat, or a single-layer coat (both of which a pit bull has) can make it hard for them to stay warm. Another issue could be a lack of fat on the body. Pit bulls, while muscular, are often pretty lean in the fat department, just because they exercise so much. This also prevents their body from storing a lot of warmth.
Hypothermia is a condition that can occur if a dog is in very low temperatures for too long. The signs include:
- Being very tired or weak
- Shaking and trembling, but then becoming very still
- Feeling cold to the touch
- Dilated pupils
- Pale gums
- Trouble with walking
- Not breathing steadily
- Decreased heart rate
Another problem is frostbite. Dogs can begin getting frostbite faster than you may think. They can get frostbitten on their paws, ears, or tail. Signs include:
- Gray or pale skin in the area
- Skin that feels cold to the touch
- An extremity that is hard and inflexible
- Areas that are painful to the touch
- Blackened areas of skin
Both of these conditions are things that need to be seen by a vet right away. Keep in mind that if you feel too cold to be without a jacket, it’s too cold for your pit bull to be outside for long. Let them use the bathroom and then bring them back in to warm up. Here are some tips for keeping your pit bull warm in the extreme cold:
- Change your routine to take advantage of the warmest, sunniest part of the day. You may need to go home on your lunch break for walks, if you can, or get in weekend play times at midday. [easyazon_image align=”right” cart=”n” cloak=”y” height=”250″ identifier=”B01BB7TX6W” locale=”US” localize=”y” nw=”y” nf=”y” src=”https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51stPDnk7aL.jpg” tag=”natur0da-20″ width=”245″]
- Find ways to play inside during the coldest months. If you are living through a blizzard, or it’s just really, really cold where you live, you need to find ways to exercise your dog inside. Consider getting a good [easyazon_link identifier=”B01BB7TX6W” locale=”US” nw=”y” nf=”y” tag=”natur0da-20″ cart=”n” cloak=”y” localize=”y” popups=”n”]tug of war rope[/easyazon_link] to have for some horsing around inside, and create an area in your home where it’s safe for your dog to get out some of the “zoomies”.
- Be sure your dog isn’t snuggling up too close to a heat source. If your pit bull is trying to get warm by getting very close to a floor vent, a fireplace, or any other heat source, get them to back away. This could burn their skin.
- Bundle up! Be sure they have very warm blankets in their bed, and consider getting them some winter gear to wear outside. A cozy dog vest and some winter booties may be a great way to help you get in a few more walks so your pit bull doesn’t go crazy inside.
- Keep your dog hydrated from all angles. Dogs can just as easily get dehydrated in the winter – any time the body is working extra hard to regulate itself, it uses up water faster. So keep your [easyazon_image align=”right” cart=”n” cloak=”y” height=”250″ identifier=”B005DL7LCQ” locale=”US” localize=”y” nw=”y” nf=”y” src=”https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/31bjttc6%2BML.jpg” tag=”natur0da-20″ width=”165″]dog’s water full, but also consider hydrating their skin. Winter time is often very dry because of heated air being blown throughout the house. [easyazon_link identifier=”B005DL7LCQ” locale=”US” nw=”y” nf=”y” tag=”natur0da-20″ cart=”n” cloak=”y” localize=”y” popups=”n”]Dog moisturizer[/easyazon_link] can help prevent them from getting dry, itchy skin patches.
- Pay extra close attention to your dog’s paws in the winter. Keep the fur between and under the toes trimmed – if it gets ice stuck to it, it can be very painful. Always be sure to wash the paws after a walk, because road salt is not an edible substance – if your dog licks it off her paws, she could get sick. Use something like coconut oil or a natural product to soothe dry paws after a walk.
- Always be sure to watch for antifreeze spills! This substance tastes sweet to animals, so they are tempted to lick it up – but it’s a very dangerous poison.
- Finally, and this may sound odd, but pay attention to how you pile up snow when you shovel it. Pit bulls are notorious climbers, and can easily hop a fence even on normal days. If there’s a big pile of snow right there to use as a stepping stool, they may just escape on you in the dead of winter!
In the winter, the biggest worry you will have is making sure your pit bull doesn’t get injured due to prolonged exposure to the cold. So, limiting their time outside is your most important step to take. Consider looking for an indoor dog park, or using your basement or garage as a place to exercise your dog.
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The Final Word
Caring for a pit bull in extreme heat or extreme cold doesn’t have to be hard. These tips show you a lot of information all at once, but the real trick is just treating your dog the way you would yourself or a child. If you bundle up (or would bundle up a child) to go outside, chances are your pit bull should be protected in some way. If you get too hot and need a break from the sun, so does your dog. It really is that easy. Keep these tips in mind and your pit bull dog will be perfectly safe in any weather.