As the colder weather sets in it’s easy for us to wrap ourselves up for the winter walks: hats, gloves, big coats and even extra socks. But what about our furry friends? Many wonder if they need to take extra precautions for their pets or even if they should avoid walks altogether when the weather is particularly bad. We will explore the extent to which dogs feel the cold, signs to look for to see if your dog is cold and finally some tips on how to keep your dog warm.
Do dogs get cold?
Despite being covered in fur, dogs do feel the cold when the temperature drops. The extent to which dogs are affected by the drop in temperature can vary largely based on the breed of your dog. There are some breeds that can tolerate the snow as their coats repel water and insulate their bodies effectively. Other breeds with a single coat would not be able to tolerate the snow and cold weather effectively. Young puppies and older dogs would also be more sensitive to the colder weather. As a general rule, if the temperature has dropped below -6 degrees Celsius then its advised that you keep your dog indoors. For dogs to be outside during such cold weather, they run the risk of frostbite and paw injuries.
How do you know if your dog is cold?
As mentioned above, all dogs have different tolerances when it comes to the cold weather. These tolerances can be affected by their breed, age, weight, health and the amount of fur at that time. Therefore it’s essential that you know the signs to look out for to be able to identity if your dog is cold. Firstly if your dog is shivering and trembling when exposed to the cold weather and trying to seek shelter then they may be feeling the cold. Just like with humans, shivering is your dog’s body’s way of trying to maintain any warmth they have. Secondly, if you feel your dog’s ears and they are cold then it may be time to head home and even try covering them with a blanket. A third sign to look out for during a cold walk is if your usually active dog is displaying slower movements. Their energy may be consumed in trying to keep themselves warm and therefore their movements may slow down. Finally, if during the colder weather your dog starts whimpering, then this may be a sign that your dog is becoming agitated and uncomfortable with the cold weather.
Can dogs get cold at night?
If your dog sleeps indoors then an extra blanket on their dog bed for them to snuggle into will be sufficient. However, if your dog sleeps outdoors in a dog house then they will be affected when the temperature drops and steps should be taken to ensure your dog doesn’t get too cold out there in winter. Supply your dog with extra blankets, place draught excluders inside the house and even lay carpet or and extra blanket inside the floor to help retain heat. Consider moving the dog house out of the direct path of the wind; moving the house into a sheltered area will reduce how cold your dog feels at night. Check on your dog regularly throughout the night is advised to ensure your dog is handling the cold weather well. If it is a particularly cold night or you dog displays any of the signs outlined above then it may be best to bring your dog inside and monitor them in a warmer environment.
Do dogs feel the cold weather?
The extent to which your dog will feel the cold weather depends very much on their breed and coat type. Some dogs have thick fur that keeps them warm and they can handle the colder weather well. Other dogs with thin coats of fur will feel the cold weather much quicker and will benefit from wearing a dog jumper or coat if you are taking them out. If you opt to add a layer to protect your dog then ensure it covers them from their neck to tail and that their bellies are covered too. Also remember that thick fur and additional layers won’t protect your four-legged friend from getting frostbite on their tail, paws or ears so make sure you’re not out for too long with your dogs during especially cold days.
How long can a dog be out in the cold?
There is no set time that you dog can or should be outside for when the temperature drops as there are so many variables. As we mentioned above, your dog’s breed, age and health all play their parts in how to long your dog will be able to be out in the cold for. When the temperature drops be mindful that, despite being covered in fur, your dog will feel the cold weather and this will impact how long you can be outside for. Familiarise yourself with the signs outlined above that will tell you your dog is suffering in the cold weather and act quickly if your dog is starting to become affected. Cutting walks short, staying home and letting your dog sleep indoors are all advised and encouraged if the weather is particularly cold and your dog is displaying any signs of suffering.
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How to keep your dog warm
A well-fitted jumper and/or winter coat is a good start if you’re going for a walk with your dog in cold temperatures. Do make sure the coat fits your dog properly: covering their body from their neck down to their tail and that their belly is also covered. If you return from your walk and your dog is cold- wrap them in a blanket and put their dog bed near a radiator and monitor how they are after a little while indoors. If you have any concerns about your dog after being out in the cold do contact your vet and get them checked over. If your dog sleeps outside in a dog house there are many precautions that can be taken to help keep them warm. Check out our tips on insulating a dog house.
Despite being covered in fur and often not seeming phased when running through cold and muddy fields, our dogs do feel the cold weather. Being aware of your dog’s breed, age, weight and health in relation to cold weather can help you to make informed decisions of how to best care for your dog when the temperature drops. Knowing the signs to look out for when your dog has been affected by the cold will mean that you can care for them appropriately and know when to get help from your vet.