Do Dogs Get Cold?
When the temperatures dip, and the darker nights set in, many dog owners in the UK often wonder: "Do dogs get cold?" The simple answer is yes, dogs do feel the cold, just like we do.
It’s also important to note that dogs can still be affected from conditions such as hypothermia and frostbite if exposed to the cold for too long. We’ll take a look at various factors which can affect how a dog manages in colder weather, including their breed, size, age, and overall health.
We’ll also discuss how to keep your dog warm and cosy during these colder months.
Fur Density and Length
Dogs with thick, long fur like Huskies, Chow Chows and Malamutes are naturally better insulated against the cold. Their double coats provide both insulation and protection from wet conditions. On the other hand, dogs with short or thin hair, such as Greyhounds and Chihuahuas have less natural protection against cold weather.
Size and Body Fat
Smaller breeds tend to lose body heat faster than larger breeds because of their higher surface-area-to-volume ratio. Additionally, dogs with more body fat might have a little more natural insulation against the cold compared to leaner dogs.
Puppies and older dogs are more vulnerable to cold temperatures, just like babies and older people with humans. Their bodies aren't as efficient at regulating temperature, making it essential to monitor them closely during colder months.
Some health issues, such as arthritis, can be exacerbated by cold weather, making it uncomfortable for affected dogs. If your dog suffers with arthritis, speak to your vet if they are becoming uncomfortable.
Conditions such as diabetes or heart conditions may also result in your dog being more susceptible to feeling the cold. It is really important to speak to your vet
Breeds More Susceptible to the Cold
While all dogs can potentially feel the cold, certain breeds are more susceptible due to their physical characteristics. Breeds with short hair, smaller size, or both, such as Dachshunds, Whippets, and Doberman Pinschers, can be more sensitive. Hairless breeds like the Chinese Crested are exceptionally vulnerable. It's crucial to provide these breeds with additional protection during winter.
How to Tell if Your Dog is Cold
As with everything relating to dogs, their only way of communication is through body language. It’s really important to pick up on the following signs that your dog is uncomfortable to ensure they remain safe and prevent conditions such as hypothermia and frostbite.
Take action if you notice any of the following:
- Shivering- One way to try to increase body temperature is by shivering. If you notice your dog is shaking, take them inside.
- Cold ears- As dogs have fur on their bodies, it can be quite difficult to gauge their body temperature. Feeling your dog’s ears is a quick and easy way to check their temperature. Too cold, bring them indoors and offer a blanket.
- Your dog is hiding/ curling up- dogs curl up to try and conserve body heat. If they are hiding, they are trying to shelter themselves from the cold.
- Limping- your dog’s feet are sensitive to changes in temperature and walking on a cold surface can be incredibly uncomfortable for them. The only way your dog can relieve this discomfort is by lifting their paws. If exposed to cold temperatures for long periods of time, skin and tissues can become damaged. Try dog booties to keep their feet warmer in colder weather.
- Whining/barking- your dog will try to tell you if they are uncomfortable. If there are no clear reasons as to why your dog may be making a noise (such as the postie doing their rounds!) Consider the temperature.
- Lethargic/sleepy- this is probably the most concerning as it is a strong indication for hypothermia. Your dog may also be clumsy and bump into things. Bring your dog indoors and seek immediate advice from a vet. Acting as quickly as possible can quite literally save your dog’s life.
How to Keep Your Dog Warm
- Dog Jumpers or Coats: Especially for dogs with short hair, a jumper or coat can provide the necessary insulation during walks. Ensure it covers from the neck to the base of the tail and doesn't restrict movement.
- Limit Outdoor Time: During extreme cold, limit your dog's time outside and ensure they have a warm shelter to return to. Shorter, more frequent walks might be preferable during these times.
- Provide Warm Bedding: Offer your dog warm blankets or heated pet beds, ensuring they have a cosy spot away from drafts. It’s important not to tuck them in tightly as they may not be able to move if they become overheating.
- Paw Protection: Cold ground, ice, and salt can hurt a dog's paws. Consider doggy boots or at least washing their paws after walks to remove any salt or chemicals. If your dog has long fur around their claws, consider giving them a trim to prevent snow or ice collecting around their toes.
- Keep Them Dry: Wet dogs can get cold faster, so ensure your dog is thoroughly dried after they've been out in the rain or snow.
So, do dogs get cold? Absolutely. While some might have a higher tolerance due to their breed or size, it's crucial for dog owners to be attentive to their pet's needs during colder months. It's always better to err on the side of caution. If you're cold, chances are, your dog might be too.
For more detailed advice tailored to specific breeds or conditions, consider consulting trusted organisations such as the RSPCA, Dogs Trust, or Blue Cross. They offer a wealth of information to ensure our furry friends stay safe and warm during the colder season.