How to Know if my Dog is Cold
Do you think your dog may be cold in winter but don't know how to tell for certain? There are some obvious signs that will tell you if your pet is cold and needs extra care and heat. When it is very cold, you need to take care of your dog as you do for yourself, because low temperatures can make them ill.
In this oneHOWTO article we'll share some guidelines on how to know if your dog is cold and some care tips for the coldest days of the year.
The first thing to remember is that dogs protect themselves from the cold and the rain with their fur and a layer of fat below the skin that insulates them from extreme temperatures.
Dogs' coats are often double, that is, they have two layers:
- The undercoat (down or ground hair) is usually woolly, wavy and soft. It repels water and keeps the skin dry and warm, which helps the dog thermoregulate.
- The outer layer (guard hair) is coarser and more visible. It sheds water and blocks out the sunlight.
Dogs with double coats include Australian Shepherds, Belgian Shepherds, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Bichon Frises, Border Terriers, Collies, Corgis, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Leonbergers, Lhasa Apsos, Newfoundlands, Old English Sheepdogs, Saint Bernards, Schnauzers, Shih Tzus, all Spitz-type dogs (Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, Chow Chows, Huskies, Pomeranians, Shiba Inus and Samoyeds) and Westies.
Some dogs do not have an undercoat, and thus they have "single coats". These dogs, who are less protected from the weather, include Afghan Hounds, Boston Terriers, Boxers, Chihuahuas, Doberman Pinschers, French Bulldogs, Maltese dogs, Papillons, Poodles, Portuguese Water Dogs and Yorkshire Terriers.
However, a dog's natural coat is not always enough from feeling cold. Short-haired dogs, small breeds and puppies usually don't have much protection from the cold and they require extra care in the winter, as it is more likely that they get cold.
If you want to know if your dog is cold you need to watch closely how they act, especially when outdoors where the conditions are generally colder and affect them more. Common symptoms that a dog is cold include:
- Trembling: if you notice that when you go outside or if you've been out for a while your dog trembles or shakes, they are probably cold. Try to take them to places where it isn't too windy or keep your walks shorter. However, there are several reasons why your dog shivers: revise them and discard them.
- Sleepiness: if you notice that your dog is more tired, sleeping a lot or constantly sleepy and less active, it may be because they are cold.
- Slow breathing: this is another sign that your dog is cold. If you notice that their breathing is slow, try covering them up and look after them for signs of disease.
- Slow mobility: another way to know if your dog is cold is to check if their movements are increasingly slow, clumsy and their body seems stiff. When a dog is cold, their muscles will be stiff to try and combat the temperature.
- Dry skin: if the area around their nose is dry or if their skin is dry it may be because their body is not handling the temperature very well. If your dog's skin is dry but you know they aren't cold, check our article on how to treat dry skin in dogs.
- Hiccups: sometimes, especially in small dogs, hiccups can be a sign that they are feeling cold.
A more serious symptom of cold in dogs is numbness. If you notice that certain parts of your dog's body are numb, alleviate their pain by giving them a massage to warm them up and get their blood circulating. If the area does not improve, take them immediately to a vet.
As is the case of all living beings, cold can make dogs ill. It is important to know if your dog is cold and stay alert to the aforementioned symptoms to prevent diseases: fever, restlessness and even hypothermia are the most common consequences of cold in dogs.
Those conditions present specific symptoms: take a look at our article on how to tell if your dog has a fever. If they do, take them to the vet.
Now that you are aware of how to know if your dog is cold and what consequences cold can have, you can take some measures to prevent it. In this section, we will share some tips to keep your dog warm whenever necessary, be it in the winter or in other occasions.
- Make sure your home is warm, that the place where your dog normally sleeps has blankets, and that it is close to a radiator. Even if you have a doghouse in the garden, your dog should sleep indoors. Take a look at these tips on how to keep a dog warm outside for more information on the subject.
- Pay close attention to your dog's diet during colder weather. The more calories and nutrients they eat, the more energy they will have to naturally protect themselves against the cold.
- Don't take your dog to the groomer in the winter. Let their long hair keep them warm and wait until spring to trim their coat.
- Buy clothes for dogs. Dressing up dogs is not just a fad, but an excellent way to cover up our pets. However, the clothes should be specific for dogs so that they can move freely and do not get too hot. Here you can learn more about whether it is bad to dress dogs in the winter, as it's not recommended for all breeds.
- Don't take them out for a walk when it is coldest, too early in the morning or too late at night. Go out when it's sunny or in the early hours of the evening.
- If it is raining, wait until it stops before going out for a walk. If it doesn't, take your dog out but dry them thoroughly with a towel as soon as you get home.
Here you can learn more about how to protect a dog from cold weather.
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