Do Dogs Feel the Cold in Cold Weather?
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If you have ever seen a dog running through the snow in winter without any protection, you may wonder if the cold affects them. Although their guardians may be wearing thick jackets and layers, but the dog is acting the same as they may do during the summer months. It may appear as if their natural coat is enough protection, but it is important we understand the risks posed to dogs in cold weather.
In this AnimalWised, we ask do dogs feel the cold in cold weather? We look at how much cold a dog can tolerate and what are the risks of dogs being too cold.
How cold is too cold for puppies and adult dogs?
As with humans, there different dogs may be able to tolerate different levels of cold. Although they will all need to maintain a normal body temperature within the range of 37.8 ºC - 39.2 ºC (100.04 ºF - 102.56 ºF), there are different factors which can affect how well they deal with intemperate climates.
One of the factors is age. Although a puppy's body temperature will be a little lower when they are newborn, they should have the same as an adult after 4 weeks of age. However, a young puppy will not have developed the muscle and layers of fat which adult dogs have. This means they will not be able to tolerate the cold as well since they have less insulation.
Some dogs are well-known for being able to withstand very low temperatures. Breeds such as the Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute and Samoyed originate in climates which often have below freezing temperatures. When sledding and exercising, they can usually withstand below 0 °C (subzero temperatures). However, their activity creates heat, so they can freeze if they are not moving for extended periods.
It is not only the length of a dog's fur which maintains warmth. Some dogs have a double-layer coat. A thick undercoat of dense fur helps to keep in the heat. Some dogs only have a single layer of fur which is not as protective. Others still may have no hair at all, as is the case with hairless dog breeds. Puppies will take some time until they develop their coat fully, so they will also be less protected in the cold.
The animal's immune system, atmospheric conditions (such as wind speed and humidity) as well as many other factors can also be factors. This means how cold is too cold for a dog depends on the individual and the context.
Dog dogs get cold sleeping outside?
Dogs can indeed be too cold when left outside, especially overnight. They can also be too hot in warmer climates if left outside during the day time. We can better regulate inside spaces, so it is always best to protect them from the elements. Although the dog may survive when it is cold, they can also be at greater risk of developing disease. They may also simply lack comfort which affects their general well-being.
A dog that lives outside in winter and does not have a properly insulated space, including blankets and shelter, is very likely to be cold. For this reason and more, AnimalWised does not recommend leaving your dog outside overnight.
How to know if my dog is cold
If your dog has outside access or spends a lot of time outdoors, you will probably notice a marked change in behavior in winter or when temperatures drop. However, it may be difficult to determine whether the dog is actually cold, especially of they are used to low temperatures. The following are common symptoms of a dog that is too cold:
- Muscular stiffness
- Excessive drowsiness
- Lack of mobility
- Dry Skin
- Clumsy movements
- Slow breathing
We may also observe that a dog that is cold will try to find warm places to shelter, either inside or outdoors. For this reason, we advise you keep vigilant with observing your dog during cold weather. If we take our dog for a long walk in winter or they have been outside for extended periods in the cold, we need to be careful.
Although we may think a symptom of a dog being cold is a cold nose, this is not necessarily the case. Our article on whether it is bad if a dog has a cold nose explains more.
Causes of low body temperature in dogs
It is very likely that prolonged exposure to cold causes a drop in body temperature in dogs. However, it is not the only factor to consider. An otherwise healthy dog may be able to withstand more than a dog whose health is compromised. Dogs suffering from a disease, dogs with conditions such as hypothyroidism, dogs with compromised immune systems, puppies, senior dogs and pregnant dogs are all at a greater risk during cold weather.
We can tell if a dog is suffering from the cold if their body temperature drops below normal. Find out how to take your dog's temperature in the video below to know how to take an accurate reading:
Diseases dogs can get if too cold
In the winter season, or whenever there are low temperatures, your dog is more likely to either contract or be affected by osteoarthritis in dogs. This is exacerbated further if they are elderly dogs. Similarly, infections such as those which lead to tracheobronchitis (also known as kennel cough) are also more common in the winter and fall months.
In the most severe cases, cold temperatures can lead to viral infections such as pneumonia and nervous system problems like hypothermia. When it is snowing, dogs are also at risk of frostbite, especially because they do not have the same protection on their paw pads as they do the rest of their body. If your dog has green mucus and a runny nose or any other symptoms of a cold, you should take them to a veterinarian.
Can a dog freeze to death?
When exposure to cold is prolonged and recurrent, the dog will begin to experience some of the diseases that we have mentioned above. Especially with infections or central nervous system problems, they can be aggravated if we do not provide adequate and prompt treatment. Some diseases such as hypothermia can be fatal, essentially meaning the dog can freeze to death.
How to prevent my dog from being cold
With the arrival of low temperatures, it is essential to take into account the following precautions to prevent our dog from dying of cold:
- The dog should stay indoors when temperatures are very low.
- Pay special attention to feeding the dog in winter if they spend many hours outside.
- Walk with our dog during the warmest hours of the day whenever possible.
- You must offer your dog a warm and comfortable bed and, if possible, you should cover the dogs when asleep. This is especially if they have short hair or are hairless. You must also keep your home at a suitable room temperature.
- If your dog is especially chilly, put a coat on them when you leave the house. If you use it inside it will be important that you remove it for a while on a daily basis. This is for the dog's skin to breathe. It will also need washed regularly.
- Avoid cutting their hair or grooming them short during cold winter months.
- Avoid getting wet, especially in icy cold water.
- Pur a waterproof coat on them when it rains or snows in the cold. Dry them properly when they get home. A dog which is damp is more prone to cold related diseases.
- It is very important that you take care of the dog's ears during the cold. Most of them have great sensitivity in their ears and not cleaning them may lead to otitis.
Finally, we will talk about the care of the dog's paw pads. When they walk in snow or cold water, they are prone to cracking. This can cause severe pain and difficulty walking. You can protect them with mittens, although not all dogs will appreciate them. You can also buy special moisturizer for their paws to help protect them during cold spells. Our article on whether you should dress your dog in winter can help clear any doubts.
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