With winter around the corner, it’s more important than ever to know how to tell if your dog is cold. Different dogs react differently to the cold. Larger and thick-furred dogs such as Akita or Siberian Husky are more resistant to cold than smaller dogs with thin coats such as Chihuahua.
Aside from the coat types, other factors that affect how dogs respond to the cold include: coat color, size, weight, conditioning, age, and health. Regardless of your dog’s coat type and the factors mentioned earlier, all dogs will eventually get cold.
And just like humans, if they get too cold, they can get sick as well. But since our dogs can’t tell us directly how they feel, it’s our job, then, to take a cue from their behaviors.
How Cold Can Dogs Tolerate?
Generally speaking, cold temperatures become a real problem for most dogs when they fall below 45° F. When temperatures drop below 32° F, they can pose a threat to small dogs without a heavy coat. And where the temperatures drop under 20° F, they become dangerous to all dogs.
How to Tell If Your Dog is Cold
Here’re a few things that you can do to tell if your dog is cold.
1. Check out the weather outside.
The easiest way to tell if it is too cold for your dog is to go outside and check the weather yourself. If you go out and still feel cold despite wearing every piece of warm clothing you own, then it’s too cold for your dog as well.
A quick note, though: temperature isn’t the only factor that affects how cold your dog feels. There are at least three other factors that are also important, namely: wind chill, dampness, and cloud days.
- Wind chill cuts through your dog’s fur and interfering with their ability to insulate and protect against the cold.
- Cloudy days tend to be colder and windier than sunny days. The clouds also make your dog loses its ability to soak up the sun to warm their body.
- Any form of dampness such as rain, wet snow, or heavy fog that soaks through your dog’s fur can quickly chill your dog.
The appearance of those three factors means your dog can quickly feel cold even if the air temperature is not all that cold.
2. Touch your dog’s body.
A quick way to tell if your dog is getting cold is to touch their body, especially their ears, paws, legs, and nose. The reason is that when it’s cold most of the dog’s blood circulation is concentrated in the core of the body (the trunk area) to keep the major organs functioning.
As a result, the blow flow reduces in the parts mentioned before. By touching those areas, particularly around the edge, you can get a feel if your dog is feeling cold or not. If the affected body parts feel cold, then it’s likely your dog feels the same way.
3. Watch your dog’s body language.
Dogs react to the cold the same way humans do. Here are some behaviors that dogs exhibit when they feel cold.
- Shivering or trembling. If your dog is shivering, trembling, or shaking when they are outside, they might be feeling cold.
- Walking slowly. Your dog may walk slowly and hunch-backed, with their tail tucked close to their body.
- Whining or barking. If your dog is whining or barking a lot, they might try to tell you that it is too cold for them.
- Looking anxious. Some dogs will look worried and agitated when they feel cold. They may move around restlessly to keep themselves warm.
- Limping. You may see your dog limping while walking as they continuously hold their paws up because the ground is colder than the surrounding air.
- Hiding or seeking shelter. Dogs who are feeling cold may hide behind or under different things to shelter themselves from cold.
- Curling up. Curling up into a ball is another way your dog tries to warm themselves.
- Extreme sleepiness or lethargy. You need to be aware if your dog looks sleepy and lethargic, as this can be a sign of hypothermia. When you see this happens, you must do everything you can to warm your dog up — get them a warm blanket or a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel.
Risk of Cold for Dogs
Catch a Cold
Though being wet or cold does not cause your dog to catch a cold, but it does lower your dog’s immune system and make them more prone to catch a disease and become ill.
These are some signs or symptoms that your dog has a cold: sneezing too much, leaking red eyes & nose, troubled breathing, and tiredness & loss of appetite.
Prolonged exposure to the cold could cause even more serious health problems such as hypothermia, frostbite, and pneumonia.
Hypothermia happens when a dog’s body temperature drops below 100°F. The earliest signs of hypothermia in dogs are paleness of skin and strong shivering, accompanied by lethargy and drowsiness.
If left untreated, hypothermia in dogs can lead to several fatal complications, including difficulty in breathing, stiffness, irregular heartbeat, shock, and concussion.
Frostbite occurs when a dog is exposed to extremely cold temperatures below 32°F for a long period. In response to the cold, the dog’s body reacts by cutting off blow flow to the edges of the body (ears, nose, tail, nipples, and scrotum). This can cause the skin and underlying tissues to freeze.
How to Keep Your Dog Warm and Healthy
Here’re some ways you can keep your dog warm and healthy when they feel cold:
Bring your dog inside.
The first thing you should do if you suspect your dog feeling cold is to bring them inside and dry them off quickly with plenty of towels if they are wet. Once done, wipe your dog’s paws, legs, and stomach with lukewarm water.
Then give them a massage and cover them with a thick blanket or a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel. A massage can increase your dog’s circulation and help to warm them up.
However, if you’re suspicious that your dog has frostbite, you must not massage them as this can cause even more damage. In this condition, it’s best to bring your dog to a vet immediately.
Feed them chicken soup.
Nothing beats a bowl of lukewarm chicken soup on a cold and rainy day. Check out the following video for easy step-by-step instructions on how to make homemade chicken soup for dogs.
This chicken soup gives your dog the nutrition they need to combat cold and other illnesses.
Keep your dog’s house warm.
Whether your dog is inside the house or outside on cold and rainy days, you want to keep their home warm. First, make sure to choose the right size of a house for your dog. If the dog house is too roomy, it will be cold, and if it’s too small, your dog will be uncomfortable.
After getting the right size, the next step is to get an insulated dog house (the best protection against cold), or you can insulate it by yourself.
Then fill the house with blankets and install a heater in your dog house.
If you put the dog house outside, then you may want to raise it off the ground to protect it from rain and snow. And get a raised dog bed as well to keep your dog off the cold floor. If you put the dog house inside, you don’t need to raise it.
Cover your dog.
If you want to walk your dog in the winter, you want to make your walks short and dress them in a warm winter dog coat . You also want to protect their paws from snow, ice, and salt by having your dog wear winter boots.
If your dog has a cold or flu.
Getting enough sleep, stress relief, and good nutrition are the best ways to fight a flu infection.
Put heating pads underneath the dog house to rest on (if you want to check our recommendation, then go to our reviews of heating pads for dog houses page), feed them enough calories and nutrients, and don’t forget to provide your dog with clean, fresh drinking water at all times.
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