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Do dogs get cold in winter?

Approx. 4 minutes read

Even though the weather can be a bit indecisive during autumn, with summer trying to make a last comeback before winter sets in, there’s no denying that the evening temperatures have dropped and there’s a little nip in the air. As they say on TV: winter is coming!

The question we should all be asking is: does my dog get cold in winter?

The short answer

The short answer is an obvious yes! The seasonal temperatures affect all animals, so the pertinent question to ask now is how cold your dog gets and what you can do about it.

It should go without saying, but…

No matter what dog breed you have; no matter how long or thick his fur is, NO dog should be an outdoor-only dog, and especially not during the winter months. Gone are the days of yard dogs and guard dogs. Dogs are family members – part of their human pack – and deserve a spot indoors, even if their bed is positioned in a corner of the kitchen or laundry room.

If there really is no other option but for your dog to be outdoors (we know how finicky landlords can be), at least provide him with a nice cosy, closed kennel that’s positioned to protect your dog from wind and rain. Check every night that his bed and blankets are dry, and that he doesn’t have any bed buddies like snakes, spiders or other wild critters trying to escape from the winter cold.

Bring out the winter furs

Your Siberian husky, Alaskan Malamute, German shepherd or border collie may be in his element now that his double coat has a heating purpose in winter, but think twice before you leave him outdoors during a winter snap. Even dogs with thick coats get cold. Those fluffy fur coats are merely a form of insulation – his body still has to work hard to maintain body heat. While your snowy breed will probably be more able to manage colder temperatures than dogs with short coats, it’s still important to look out for signs that he’s getting a little chilly. Read on below.

Short cuts

Dogs with short hair like bulldogs, Boston terriers, Jack Russells, pit bulls, Weimaraners, fox terriers and especially the laterally compressed speed dogs like whippets and greyhounds are susceptible to getting cold in winter. While they do have heat-maintaining mechanisms in their bodies, they will definitely need a little extra help to stay warm in winter. And you might think your rotund little pug friend has some additional padding to keep himself warm, but even pudgy pooches can’t rely solely on their fat layers for insulation.

Doggy wardrobe

This is where you get to treat your furry friend to a doggy jersey or jacket. It’s not just about making him the most stylish pup on the block, but about adequately covering his body to keep the heat in during cold winter nights and dreary days. You may find your dog curling up close to your heater or fireplace*, but he will still need adequate cover to keep him warm while he goes outside to pee or poop.

Choose more than one so that you’ve got an extra jacket for when the other one is in the wash. When you choose a jacket or two for him, make sure that:

  • it fits the size of his body
  • it fits the shape of his body
  • it’s not too tight around his neck, joints or legs
  • his important bits are exposed so he doesn’t soil his clothes when he goes outside to do his business

How to tell if your dog is getting too cold

There are a few tell-tale signs that your dog is not managing in the cold. Aside from any changes to his general happy and alert body language, watch out for the following:

  • frequent shivering
  • disorientation/changes in alertness
  • weakness
  • slow breathing
  • slow heartbeat
  • whining and/or anxiousness
  • slower movements than normal
  • looks for somewhere warm to burrow
  • holding up one or more paws (a sign that his feet are cold)

Everyone loves a hot dog

Do a proper inventory check: are your dog’s bed and blankets adequate and dry enough to keep him warm? Is his bed and sleeping area out of the wind and rain? Is his jacket warm enough for his body and breed type? Inside dogs should not be in draughty or cold parts of the house, so move his bed to a sheltered corner or a spot that gets warm and sunny during the day.

Be especially wary of the cold if your dog is very old or very young. Senior dogs and puppies have weaker immune systems than healthy adult pooches, and the cold may make them more susceptible to illnesses and afflictions. Older dogs suffering from arthritis will be especially sensitive to the cold, so speak to your vet about joint support supplements. Give your dog – no matter how old or young – some extra love and cuddles this winter. It will keep you warm too!

* NEVER leave your dog unattended in front of the heater or fireplace. He may realise too late that he is too close and get burnt, so check the temperature on his fur from time to time and move him if he’s getting too warm. Fireplaces present the risk of rogue embers landing on your dog’s fur or jacket, so make sure your fireplace is adequately screened, and keep an eye on your dog at all times.

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