There’s a common misconception that, because dogs usually have fur, they don’t feel the cold. So why is it that, when you feel your dog’s nose, ears, or paws, they are sometimes cold to touch? Are they cold, or is something else going on?
Well, firstly, dogs do feel the cold too!
However, it is variable. Some breeds of dogs are better equipped to handle the cooler weather, than others. Dogs that have thick, double coats (such as the Husky, German Shepherd, Samoyed), are capable of withstanding cold temperatures without too much fuss. The breeds that are sensitive to the cold include those with thin, sparse coats and/or low body fat percentage (Greyhounds, Whippets, Chihuahua, Chinese Crested). So, it is important to be mindful of your dog during the winter months, and to look out for signs that they may be suffering from the cold.
Signs that your dog is cold:
- They ‘feel’ cold to touch, especially their ears
- Curling up into a small ball
- Extra sleepy/ lethargic
- General change in behaviour
What are the risks of my dog being too cold?
Just like us, there are a few main risks associated with the cold. Please seek immediate veterinary attention if you are concerned about any of the below:
Extremely low temperatures can reduce your dog’s overall body temperature, which should sit at a comfortable 38.3 to 39.2 degrees Celsius (a degree higher than ours). If you’re spending time outdoors, and your dog is one of the breeds especially at risk for cold sensitivity, then you’ll want to ensure that they are adequately equipped to deal with it with some dog-specific outerwear. Monitor for signs of shivering, lethargy, and limping.
Frostbite is damage to the body tissue that occurs when the blood flow has been restricted to certain areas, caused by extreme cold. It is the body’s natural response to keep the vital organs safe; blood is redirected from the extremities to the centre of the body. However, these leaves the tail, paws and above all the ears more vulnerable to frostbite.
Frostbite causes discoloured skin (blue, grey, purple, black), swelling and redness, blistered skin and pain.
What else can cause my dog to feel cold?
There are many different illnesses and conditions that can cause your dog’s body temperature to drop. Some of these include sepsis, hypothyroidism, diabetes, kidney disease, poisonings or toxicity, bleeding or haemorrhage, and heart failure or circulatory issues.
These will often be accompanied by other symptoms, however, if you are worried that your dog is unwell, it is best to seek the advice of your regular veterinarian.
How to prevent my dog being cold this winter?
Simple measures taken around the house will go a long way in keeping your pup warm. Ensure that their bed is in the least draughty part of the room, and ideally on a carpeted floor. Raised beds help to give them a bit of warmth if they are on tiles. Ensure that they have a cosy blanket to curl up into, and that their bedding isn’t wet or damp from any activities that day.
You can buy coats and jackets for your dog of all varying descriptions. Some are waterproof, others are simply fleeces, but all go a long way in adding a protective layer when your dog ventures outdoors. Fluorescent ones also help with visibility in those months we only ever seem to be walking our dogs in the dark!
It is beneficial to get into a routine of drying your dog and doing a brief check of their body, to ensure that there isn’t any ice stuck between their paws, and for our longer-haired breeds, under their bellies. Ice clumps increase the risk of frostbite, cause pain, and if your dog begins to lick them, can cause chemical or salt ingestion.
What temperature is too cold?
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all regarding when you should worry about the cold weather. However, depending on your breed of dog, if you find that you’re having to rug up to be comfortable outside, then stop to think about whether your dog is comfortable too.