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How do you know if your dog is cold?

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Sometimes it is easy to miss the signs that tell you your dog is feeling a bit chilly. Most dogs can withstand cooler temperatures than humans, but they can still get cold just like humans, and can even suffer from frostbite or hypothermia. Here are some common signs that indicate your pooch is feeling cold:

  • They’re whining, trembling and/or shivering and there’s nothing to indicate they’re frightened
  • They’re trying to cuddle into warm spaces, such as near heaters
  • They avoid laying on tiled areas of your home, and prefer the carpeted flooring
  • Hunching or lifting paws off the ground
  • Show signs of hypothermia – muscle stiffness, decreased mental alertness, lethargy, weakness (seek immediate medical attention)

How cold is too cold for your dog?

Different breeds of dogs have different tolerances to cold temperatures. A Siberian Husky, which is one of several breeds with thicker double coated fur, is more likely to tolerate or even enjoy colder temperatures than a chihuahua is. German Sherpherds are known to love lounging in cold snow banks, whereas a little Mini Goldendoodle is more likely to let you know they’d like to come back in within a few minutes in the cold. Health conditions can also alter a dog’s ability to handle the colder air – for example, if your dog has a kidney or heart disease, or diabetes, they can become more susceptible to the cold, according to data from the American Veterinary Medicine Association. Age can also be a factor in cold tolerance for dogs – older dogs get colder more quickly as their body is unable to regulate their temperature as effectively as an adult dog, and puppies tend to get colder more quickly as well. If you dog is cold, it can also worsen some conditions, such as arthritis.

What should I do if my dog is feeling cold?

Throw a warm blanked on your dog if they are feeling cold. Make sure they have constant access to water, as the dry air can bother them just as much as it bothers humans. Consider putting on a pet-friendly nose balm on your dog. Put a dog sweater on your dog to help them stay warm. Never leave a dog unattended in a cold car, as this can accelerate symptoms of hypothermia. Walk your dog during the daytime when its a little warmer.

Check your dog’s paw frequently for signs of cold-weather injury – such as cracked paws or bleeding paws. Ice can accumulate between their paw pads, so ensure you clip the hair between your dog’s toes.

What should I do if my dog has frostbite?

Frostbite in dogs is damage caused to their skin and other tissues due to extreme cold conditions. Then temperatures drop below 32°F (0°C) blood vessels start to narrow in order to help preserve their core body temperature. This is done by diverting blood towards their core and away from the cooler parts of their body. When this happens for a long period of time, blood flow is reduced to some areas of the body, especially away from their paws, ears and tail (parts furthest away from their heart), to levels that are critically low. This causes severe tissue injury since it allows the tissues to freeze. 

How do you know if your dog has frostbite? Symptoms of frostbite:
– skin becomes discolored to a gray or blue
– the affected area swells
– blisters or skin ulcers form
– areas of the skin become blackened and die

 

If you suspect your dog has frostbite, immediately take them to an experienced veterinarian.

– move your dog to a warm area as soon as possible
– Do not rub or massage the frostbitten areas
– wrap them in warm blankets and towels, place hot water bottles on them, don’t use direct dry heat such as hair dryers or heating pads
if you are unable to take them in to an area where they can have continued warmth, do not try to warm them until you can. This is because there is the potential for the area to warm up and then re-freeze, which causes more severe tissue damage.
– pain medications are not recommended, unless prescribed by the vet, as many human pain relievers can be toxic to dogs.

Your vet will treat your dog, and help with the thawing process, which can be very painful to your dog. They may prescribe antibiotics to prevent skin infections if tissue death is suspected.  Mild cases usually resolve with little permanent damage, but if the frostbite is severe, they may recommend amputation of the affected body part.

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