Unlike in humans, a cold, wet nose is purportedly a sign of good health in dogs- or is it? If your dog has a cold, can you anticipate shivering, panting, or a fever, just like in humans? In fact, you may even be asking yourself – is my dog cold? And do dogs get cold at all?
Do Dogs Feel the Cold
Just like humans, dogs get cold as well. Historically, certain breeds developed in certain areas of the world, and developed adaptations for these areas.
For example, a St. Bernard is well within his comfort zone on a snowy mountaintop. Just like Huskies, who are bred for their ability to work under snowy, stormy conditions. But put a chihuahua there and he won’t fare as well. Similarly, a St. Bernard being raised in a hot, arid, desert climate will struggle with the weather all the time.
Dogs feel the cold just like humans do. Dogs who have over time developed coats of fur to defend them against the cold, far better because of this inbuilt insulation they have.
But dogs who are bred for warmer climates, or have a thin, almost non-existent coat of fur, need help to survive in temperatures below 45°F.
Do Puppies Get Cold?
In this regard, puppies are much like adult small dogs. Puppies are more sensitive to the cold than their adult versions. Which is why, even if you have a puppy from a breed that is comfortable in colder temperatures, you should keep an eye on the thermometer.
When the temperature outside falls below 32°F, puppies may need to be wrapped up in a sweater even if their adult counterparts are comfortable. Puppies of smaller dog breeds or breeds with thin fur should be put in a sweater or a little dog jacket well before 32°, even.
This is doubly true for smaller puppies, puppies who are underweight, and puppies who are sick or unwell. In these circumstances, puppies are even more susceptible to the cold than otherwise.
Of course, this applies to puppies that have been weaned already and are somewhat independent already. Newborn or very young pups need to be kept in a warm, cozy atmosphere because they cannot generate too much body warmth on their own.
How To Tell If Your Dog Is Cold
You might be wondering, ‘how do I know if my dog is cold at all?’. The signs of dogs feeling uncomfortable in the cold are not hard to read. You may notice-
- Chattering teeth
- Anxious behavior
- Hiding or searching for a warm place to burrow into
- Slowing down while walking or playing
- Reluctance to go outside at all
- Holding up their paws (because the ground can get painfully cold on the pads of their feet)
- Hunching over while walking
- Keeping their tail tucked between their legs or keeping it low
If you see your dog doing one or more of these things, your dog may be feeling uncomfortably cold. Many pet owners notice that, around certain temperatures, their dogs show no interest in going out to play. Or even avoid drinking water, if their dish is out where it is cold. Notice your dog’s ‘tells’ for signs that he is feeling cold.
My Dogs Nose is Cold, Why?
A very popular misconception often seen in stories in cartoons, is that if a dog’s nose is dry or warm, it means that he’s sick, and if it is cold and wet, it means that he is healthy.
The truth is a little trickier. A perfectly healthy dog can also have a dry nose, but a dry nose can also mean that your dog is very dehydrated or feverish.
Context is important. For example, if you are on a walk with your dog, and you touch his nose and it is very cold, check your dog for other signs that it is cold. Is he whining, or trying to snuggle down? Is he shivering? That means that he is cold and is trying to get warm, and you should take him home.
What If My Dog’s Ears Are Cold?
‘My dog has cold ears. Is my dog cold? Is it time for his sweater?’ – Yes!
Unlike the wet nose myth, a dog’s ears are actually a good indicator of his body temperature. If you are outside with your dog and you find his ears very cold to touch, that means that your dog is feeling cold.
Dogs’ ears are warm or cold depending on the peripheral circulation. If your dog is not very furry, the cold outside temperatures or wind will soon do a number on them. On the plus side, it’s easy to check them.
How To Protect Your Dog From The Cold
In certain circumstances, a little extra precaution is advised. If your dog is old, has certain age related conditions like degenerative bone and joint diseases like arthritis, has other diseases like diabetes, or is particularly small, or young, you should be extra careful taking him out in the cold.
A good cutoff temperature is around 45°F. Anything lower, and your dog should be bundled up in a nice, thick sweater, or in a hoodie for dogs.
For weaker or leaner dogs, don’t wait till 45°F. If your dog is comfortable, put a sweater on your dog around 60°F itself.
Bigger dog breeds like Labradors or Great Danes, or thick furred dogs like Huskies or Malamutes rarely need to be protected from the cold. These types of breeds often have double coat fur layers, and are very insulated. The air trapped between their fur adds a blanket of insulation around their body heat. They do quite well in snow, even.
Some of them don’t like going out in the cold, but you can rest assured that taking them out in moderately cold temperatures will not affect them too much.
In addition to sweaters and jackets for dogs, you can also consider getting boots for your dog. There are different kinds of doggy boots available, such as those made specifically for rainy weather, and insulated ones for walking in the cold.
However, it’s always a bit of a training curve to get your dog to wear his boots. They are not very comfortable, or just awkward for your dog to get used to. Consider getting boots if:
- Your dog has injured or very sensitive feet
- You live in an area where deicers are used on roads and paths. De-icing compounds are usually very harsh and can burn your dogs bare paws, if he steps on them. If your dog licks these products off his paws, it can be very poisonous for him.
- If your dog is otherwise comfortable with the cold, but you spend extended periods of time outside. Prolonged exposure to cold, wet ground can be bad for your dog’s paws.
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