01/24/2013 08:01 EST | Updated 03/26/2013 05:12 EDT

Dogs need extra attention in cold, says vet

Pet owners should be watching for signs of cold stress in their animals, says the director of the veterinary teaching hospital at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown.

Most large or medium size breeds do fine in the cold weather as long as they are supervised by their owner, said Dr. Tracy Matthews, but smaller dogs or those with thin coats may experience some discomfort. Matthews said there are things pet owners should look for when taking their dog for a walk that might indicate they are feeling the impact of the cold.

"One of the first things we'll see with dogs especially is the fur between their pads under their feet starts to get matted up with ice and snow and a lot of times they will stop and lay down and start licking at the bottom of their feet," he said.

Booties can protect the paws from the snow, ice and salt, and coats or sweaters can be a good idea for smaller dogs or those with thinner fur coats.

"With smaller dogs, they will stop trying to move around and they'll just kind of curl up into a smaller ball or just start shivering," said Matthews.

"Those are typically signs that they are getting uncomfortable."

Matthews suggested limit the length of walks in extreme cold, depending on how your dog reacts.

If you have specific concerns about your breed of dog and the cold, said Matthews, it's best to consult with your own veterinarian who knows your pet best.

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