As the winter months approach many dogs start to feel the cold and just like us, can become sick if exposed too much. Some breeds tolerate the cold better than others and even the strongest breeds have their limits.
This article will explain everything you need to know about cold weather and keeping your dog safe. I will run through which kind of breeds suffer from the cold more, the signs to look out for, and how to avoid it in the first place.
Which Breeds Feel The Cold The Most?
Let’s run through the basics of which breeds tolerate the cold better than others. After this section, I will run through signs that your dog is getting too cold.
● Physical Size
Typically, smaller breeds will feel the cold much quicker and more intensively than larger breeds. Most smaller breeds only have a single layer of fur and they have considerably less muscle mass on their body. Muscle plays an important role in keeping them warm, and simple due to being so physically small, they don’t have much of it.
● Type of Coat
Does your dog have a single or double coat? The kind of coat your dog has is the most significant factor in their ability to stay warm in colder conditions. As previously mentioned most small breeds have short thin coats but this doesn’t mean short coats are limited to only small dogs. Medium, large, and even giant breeds can have short coats.
● History of The Breed
Northern Breeds that were bred in cold regions like the Siberian husky, Alaskan Malamute, Chow chow, and Norwegian Elkhound will be able to tolerate the cold much more than other breeds that have no history of living in cold weather.
Learn about the history of your breed and it will quickly become clear whether they have been exposed to cold weather regions in any part of their history.
But even still, northern breeds that are supposed to tolerate the cold weather, can become less tolerable the more time they live in hotter conditions.
Signs That Your Dog is Getting Too Cold
Knowing the signs of when your dog is getting too cold can be the difference of some very significant health problems and even an emergency.
Once you’re aware of the signs you’ll know when to seek a warmer place and help your dog regain some warmth.
● How cold does it feel opposed to the actual temperature reading
One of the biggest mistakes pet owners make is looking at what specific temperature it is and determining whether it’s cold or not from that.
The point here is that 0°C isn’t actually that cold if it’s dry, sunny with no snow. In this case, a double-coated breed or even small single-coated breed (with a winter jacket) would be fine to exercise outside. BUT 0°C when it’s windy, dark, and rainy, is a completely different situation. Zero degrees can quickly FEEL like -20°C
It’s just a matter of using common sense to determine how it feels rather than the actual temperature. If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog. And in some situations you may even be tolerating it better than your pooch, so always be aware.
● Body lanuage
Body language will be the first thing that tell you whether your dog is too cold or is ok. So it’s crucial to be aware of the following signs:
❌ Holding up a paw. Any attempt you see from your dog to keep a paw raised up, whether it’s for a split second or continuously, it means he’s too cold. Paws are the contact to the ground and are naturally very sensitive to temperature. If you see this, it’s time to head back inside right away.
❌ Slowing down. Keeping very physically active is crucial in order to keep the body warm and blood pumping, when he starts to slow down it means he’s already become too cold and he needs to go back inside. This goes for all movement, not just how fast he’s running.
❌ Shivering or trembling. Just like with us shivering is always seen when we’re getting too cold. Shivering is an autonomous reaction whereby the muscles start rapidly contracting and relaxing in order to create heat for the body. It’s usually quite noticeable when dogs start to shiver or tremble, so if you see it, head back inside. An important note, this is an early sign of hypothermia, but if your dog becomes even colder, shivering may actually stop.
❌ Hunched back, tucked tail. If you see your dog hunching his back in an arch shape and/or coupled with tucking his tail in between his legs. He’s getting cold and needs to warm up soon. Head back inside if you witness this.
❌ Any other usual behavior. General behavior should be observed as well. If you have the feeling your dog is starting to become jittery, anxious, worried, or if he starts whining, barking or making noises out of the ordinary, it’s a sign the cold is getting to him and he needs to warm up quickly.
● Cold body, ears, frozen paws
Be sure to regularly inspect the paws of your dog, touch his body and ears. Paws can actually freeze and will be one of the first ways you can tell if your dog is getting too cold.
When dogs gradually become colder, the blood flow is reduced to the extremities and is concentrated on the vital parts and internal organs.
By regularly inspecting these parts you’ll know whether this has started to happen or not. A dog that’s genuinely warm, will not be cold to touch.
What To Do When Your Dog is Too Cold
If you’ve noticed your dog displaying any of the signs above then you must assist him in regaining some body heat to prevent any serious health issues or hypothermia from developing.
● Get him inside quickly ✔️ Your first priority if you are close to your car or home is to get back inside. If your dog has slowed his movements right down already, then pick them up and carry them with intention.
● Use one of your extra layers to wrap him up ✔️As you’re about to find out, one of the safety tips is to wear an extra jacket or jumper yourself, in case you need to take it off and wrap up your dog while carrying him back. It’s important to consider this an add-on garment because you don’t want to create a risky situation for yourself.
● Provide warm blankets ✔️After getting him back inside encourage him to lay on a soft wooly blanket and consider loosely draping one over him once he has settled. It’s equally important not to overdo it and warm him up too quickly or too much.
● Ensure his coat is dry ✔️ Being wet is the culprit for getting too cold in the first place so ensure you dry him thoroughly but gently, with a clean dry towel.
● Provide drinking water that’s lukewarm ✔️ Encourage your dog to drink some fresh-water that’s lukewarm (NOT hot) this should help his body feel warmer quickly. Not to mention how important it is for him to stay hydrated in order to recover.
How To Protect Your Dog From The Cold
When the winter arrives, you’ll want to be ready and prepared for it. Depending on where you are in the world, can dramatically change how cold it gets. And this will change just how much you need to prepare.
Below I go through some of the ways you can keep your dog safe during cold weather.
1. Winter Jackets ✔️
For single-coated breeds or any breed that’s small in size, a winter jacket will be a good investment. A good winter jacket like this one will be water-resistant and reflective for extra safety.
For breeds that have single coats, a winter jacket is going to act as another layer of fur and will significantly improve their tolerance when out on walks. It’s important that you get the fit correct to ensure it doesn’t rub or irritate his skin when moving around.
2. Wear Extra Layer When Out On Walks ✔️
I consider this a ninja tip: Wear an extra jumper when you go out on walks. In a situation where your dog suddenly becomes very cold and immobile, your quickest response will be to pick them up and carry them back to the car or your home. In the meantime, depending on this distance your dog can still get colder so being able to take off one of your own layers and wrap him up, will start the process of regaining body heat.
3. Remove Snow From His Toes ✔️
If you’ve got snowy conditions, that’s not an issue, but you will need to regularly remove snow and ice build-up from their paws. As I mentioned earlier, paws can freeze and are very vulnerable to temperature.
Keep the snow and ice from building up and your dog will last a lot longer in playing and running around in the snow.
4. Avoid Rivers, Lakes and Bodies of Water ✔️
This is essential for their safety. Whether the water is frozen or not, holes may appear and the running water underneath will be icy cold and no dog will tolerate being submerged in the water even momentarily. This will almost instantly cause hypothermia and could even be fatal. Not to mention it puts your safety at risk too when you no doubt go in after your dog.
5. Keep Him Dry ✔️
When it comes to dry and wet conditions, your dog will be able to tolerate cold temperatures and days that “feel” cold so long as he’s dry and there is no damp in the air.
One of the quickest ways to lose their ability to keep warm in cold conditions is to be wet or damp. Try to avoid taking your dog outside when it’s wet and cold, and opt for exercising him inside your home the best you can.
6. Keep Him Visible ✔️
One of the benefits of using a winter jacket is that you can get ones that are reflective and highly visible. In winter weather it can become dark quickly and the last thing you want is to lose sight of your dog in cold conditions. This is both dangerous for their safety and for yours. If your breed doesn’t suit wearing a winter jacket then at least use a harness or collar with reflective strips.
7. Adjust His Diet If Necessary ✔️
So long as it’s within normal weight ranges for your breed, consider adding additional protein and nutrition during the build-up to the winter months. A diet rich in protein will help with healthy weight gain which will in turn make your dog stronger and more physically ready for cold temperatures.
8. Ensure Your Dog is Well Trained ✔️
Start working on your dog’s recall and ability to come back to you the moment you call him. This is a critical skill anyway, but it doesn’t hurt to fine-tune it as the winter months approach. While out on walks, especially if your dog is excited to be in the snow, it’s easy for him to get a little carried away and wander too far. Not only does it become hard to see him, but it’s hard for you to retrieve him, so he must have good recall and obedience for situations like this.
9. Keep Him Active Indoors ✔️
Some breeds that naturally don’t like the cold are who aren’t very tolerant of it, may not want to go outside. So be ready to find ways you can exercise your dog inside your home. Exercise both physically and mentally is crucial for good health and the cold weather can’t get in the way of this. Indoor fetch, hide and seek, chasing new toys and anything that gets his heart rate going, all works well.
10. Don’t Leave Your Dog Unattended In The Car ✔️
Just like in summer temperatures rise to sometimes fatal levels, they can also drop to equally as fatal levels in the winter. Don’t leave your pooch in the car for long periods alone without access to heat. If you need to run errands then keep your dog safe at home, where you know he will be warm.
11. Consider Dog Boots or “Booties” ✔️
Particularly popular with musher dogs like Siberian huskies and malamutes, you can “booties” like these ones that are great at giving extra protection to their feet when out on cold walks. These are particularly useful for snowy or icy conditions. Some booties are water-resistant and they all have different features. Your dog may like or dislike them, but it may be something you at least want to try.
Ensuring your dog is safe throughout winter is your responsibility. If your dog is small or has a single-layered coat then you are likely already very cautious, but if your dog is a thick-double-coated breed, you still need to be attentive and should never assume “he’ll be fine” even the most tolerable dogs will have their limit.
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