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Sweater Weather & Sweater Paws: What to Do When a Dog Is Cold

The new year introduces newfound joy and cheer. But, unfortunately, it can also bring brutal and biting temperatures, not just to you but also to your little pets. 

Let's learn how to keep a dog cozy, so you won’t worry about your little pup getting any unwanted issues when the temperature drops. But how can you determine that your dog is feeling chillier than normal?  

Signs That Your Dog Can’t Handle the Cold Weather

Pet owners may think most dogs have enough protection from the chilly weather with their natural coats. However, our animal counterparts often feel cold too. All dogs need protection from freezing temperatures regardless of their coat's thickness or size. Some dogs just need to be warmed up more than others. 

For example, smaller dogs need more protection than bigger ones. Age can also affect a dog’s tolerance to lower temperatures. Younger and senior dogs may be more sensitive to such weather conditions. 

There are also naturally cold-tolerant and cold-averse dogs. Dogs with thick coats can tolerate 32° Fahrenheit temperatures. On the other hand, dogs with thinner coats cannot handle temperatures below 59° Fahrenheit. 

To know if your dog is feeling chilly, observe the following: 

  • Temperature: If their ears and stomach are cold to the touch, then they are likely feeling chilly.
  • Behavior: Look for signs of shivering and shaking. Cold dogs may also burrow in warm areas to heat themselves. They will also move slower or be reluctant to move.
  • Posture: Chilly dogs will have hunched forms with their tails tucked. They might also curl up when they lie down.
  • Sound: If your dog is whimpering, whining, or barking while outside, they are likely telling you to bundle them up in blankets.

Another important thing to check is your furry friend’s body temperature. Normal temperature ranges from 100 to 102.5° Fahrenheit. If it drops to 98°, your pet might be susceptible to dangerous medical conditions.

What happens if your furry friend is cold for too long?

The next logical question is: what will happen to your pet if they experience heavy and prolonged exposure to cold temperatures? Your dog may contract weather-related illnesses, such as hypothermia, frostbite, and even a cold. 

Hypothermia

If your furry friend experiences temperatures below 20° Fahrenheit, your pet will likely develop hypothermia. Hypothermia is when a dog’s body temperature dramatically drops due to prolonged exposure to frigid weather. 

The sudden drop in temperature slows their breathing and may lead to other problems like frostbite and even death. For milder and moderate cases, your dog may:

  • Shiver, whine, or bark
  • Have stiff muscles and, thus, find it difficult to move
  • Be lethargic and sluggish
  • Have pale gums and cold areas on their body
  • Experience anxiety, panic, confusion, or fear.

As your pet’s body temperature drops, its muscles will run out of energy. As a result, they will stop shivering and moving altogether. Their organs may also decrease in activity, causing their heart rate and breathing to slow. Your dog is now experiencing severe hypothermia. Organ failure and death may follow if left untreated in the cold. 

Severe hypothermia manifests in the following symptoms:

  • Slow, erratic, or labored breathing
  • Unmoving and unresponsive
  • Dilated pupils

To treat hypothermia, dog parents must slowly warm up their pets by placing them in warmer locations and wrapping them up in snug blankets. Do not use heating pads, as these may burn their skin. Dog owners must also inform and visit their veterinarian immediately after identifying their dog’s symptoms. 

Frostbite

As mentioned, frostbite may occur if your furry friend experiences severe hypothermia. Frostbite refers to a skin and tissue injury caused by an insufficient blood supply in a certain area. It occurs due to the body’s natural response to freezing temperatures. 

When the body experiences frigid weather, blood vessels naturally constrict, redirecting most of the blood flow to areas near the core to protect vital organs such as the heart. Appendages like the paws, ears, and tail do not receive enough oxygen and warmth, causing these areas to suffer from frostbite. 

Frostbite can develop in days, hours, and even minutes. The onset of the medical condition may depend on certain factors, such as a dog’s age, size, coat matter, and health. Temperature and humidity are also such factors.

Your dog may be experiencing frostbite if:

  • Their paws, ears, tails, and other extremities look discolored.
  • They experience pain or discomfort when affected areas are touched.
  • Ice appears on the affected appendage.
  • Their skin is cold and brittle.
  • They have a low body temperature.

Immediately inform and visit your veterinarian when you suspect that your pet is experiencing frostbite. Warm up the affected areas with warm and moist towels. As with hypothermia, do not use heating pads or rub the appendage to avoid further tissue damage. 

Unfortunately, areas with severe frostbite may need an amputation. So it’s best to bring and have your pet checked by their vet as quickly as possible to avoid this outcome. 

Kennel Cough

Low temperatures can affect your pet’s immune system, making them an easy target for illnesses. Freezing temperatures, exposure to dust, and poor ventilation can weaken a dog’s immune system and cause kennel cough

They will experience cold symptoms, such as a persistent cough, sneezing, and a runny nose. 

Separate your dog from other pets, as kennel cough is extremely transmissible. Bring them to a veterinarian right away. 

closeup shot of a dog warming up from the cold in a yellow knit sweater

How to Keep Your Dog Warm

Prevention is always better than cure. To avoid these ailments, here are a couple of things you can do to keep your furry friend safe and warm throughout the winter:

  1. As much as possible, keep them indoors. Limit your dog’s walks and activities outside, especially during extreme weather conditions. 
  2. If you do go out, dress them appropriately. Keep your dog snug and warm with dog sweaters and coats. Don’t forget their paw mitts!
  3. After walks, wipe their paws with warm towels. To prevent their extremities from developing frostbite, ensure that these areas are clear from ice and snow.
  4. Mind their bedding. Temperatures rapidly drop during the night as your dog sleeps. It’s best to provide extra blankets and use heated dog beds. 
  5. Do not leave them in the car. Cars and other enclosed spaces cool down quickly during the wintertime. While your pet won’t immediately develop hypothermia, it will likely feel uncomfortable and cold.
  6. Lastly, remember the signs. Knowing how to spot a freezing dog is important to alleviate their condition and immediately get them the help they need. 

Final Thoughts

Man’s best friend is highly susceptible to unwanted illnesses this wintertime. Dress them appropriately to avoid jack frost nipping at your dog’s feet. 

However, we know how exhausting it can be to keep your dog healthy and safe during the early months of the year. If you aren’t ready to adopt and handle a dog just yet, try Perfect Petzzz.

Perfect Petzzz gives you the luxury of experiencing pet ownership without worrying about temperature tolerance, exposure to hypothermia and frostbite, and other pet parent struggles! Our life-like animal plushies are ready for a lifetime of unlimited cuddles, soft hugs, and everything in between.

Look through our pawsome selection and get over a ruff day with our plushies!

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