As the season changes and the night cools, temperatures begin to drop to uncomfortable levels.
You may notice signs such as your dog’s tongue getting colder, or that they are constantly looking for cozier places to snuggle up in.
Especially in homes that don’t have much heating, you may rightly wonder, “Is my house too cold for my dog?”
It’s a common assumption that the temperature indoors will not cause any troubles for a dog. They’ve got layers of coat and fur for a reason, right?
However, if your pup starts shivering and whining, it could be a sign that your house might indeed be too frosty for their liking!
Dogs have a specific range in body temperature that is comfortable for them, and when it falls below that level they can start to feel chilly and be at increased risk for illnesses, hypothermia and frostbite.
However it’s not all frigid, as you can implement measures to make sure your dog is warm when they are inside.
These methods can include making your pup wear clothes, using heaters and thermostats, and warming up resting areas using blankets and hot water bottles.
Your dog will be thankful for what you have done, and they may even nip at your ear to show gratitude for protecting them from the frozen palace that is (currently) your home!
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Yes, absolutely! Dogs feel the cold, just like we do.
However, each dog may experience the cold to different degrees.
There are multiple factors that might explain why one dog may be colder than another, including breed, coat, size, weight, age, health, and activity level.
Breed: Dogs with thicker fur such as the Chow Chow, Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute can cope with the cold better than dogs with thinner fur. Breeds that are more sensitive to the cold include the Great Dane, Greyhound and Terrier breeds.
Coats: Thick, multi-layered dark coats tend to absorb and retain heat more effectively, keeping those dogs warmer compared to dogs with thin, single-layered, lighter-colored coats.
Size and weight: Dogs larger in size and with more body fat will be able to resist the cold better than smaller dogs. Though too much fat isn’t good, it does provide insulation. Surface area to volume ratio is larger for small dogs, which means that they will tend to lose heat faster.
Health, age and activity level: Healthy adult dogs that exercise regularly can regulate their body temperature better than puppies, old dogs and dogs that are sick.
Typically, your dog’s body temperature should range between 101⁰F to 102.5⁰F (38.3⁰C to 39.2⁰C).
When the environmental temperature falls below 45⁰F (7.2⁰C), dogs will begin to show mild signs of coldness, such as shivering and restlessness.
As temperatures drop under 32⁰F (0⁰C), dogs that are young, sick, old or have thin fur will be at greater risk of issues such as hypothermia.
When temperatures nosedive below 20⁰F (-6.7⁰C), owners will need to take measures to provide warmth for their dog as prolonged exposure to these temperatures can cause hypothermia and frostbite.
If your dog stays in a cold environment for long periods of time, it can cause sickness in the form of canine colds and pneumonia, as well as hypothermia and frostbite.
When it gets a bit colder than usual, your dog’s immune system will naturally become less active. As a result, your dog may also become more susceptible to viruses or infections that can cause sickness.
Symptoms of canine colds include:
- Excessive sneezing
- Difficulty breathing
- Nasal or eye discharge
In more severe cases of illness, your dog may suffer from pneumonia due to a less active immune system. Pneumonia is an infectious disease caused by influenza, which affects your dog’s respiratory tract- particularly the lungs.
Symptoms of pneumonia include:
- Difficulty breathing
Your dog can begin to be hypothermic when their body temperature falls below 102⁰F (38.9⁰C).
Hypothermia affects your dog’s blood flow, heart rate, breathing, immune system and nervous system.
Symptoms of hypothermia include:
- Irregular breathing
- Abnormal heart rate
- Loss of coordination
- Loss of consciousness
When temperatures drop below 32⁰F (0⁰C), your dog will become increasingly susceptible to frostbite. This is where tissues can die due to blood flow being redirected away from the extremities and towards the core of the body.
Symptoms of frostbite include:
- Discolored skin
- Skin ulcers
- Ice on skin
In addition to checking for signs that may indicate that your dog is cold, you can also check your dog’s body temperature directly. You can do so by using a digital thermometer.
A good area to check with a thermometer is the rectal region. Apply a lubricant around the thermometer and place it gently within the rectal area until a temperature reading appears.
Initial signs that show your dog is cold can include:
- Curling up in a tight ball
- Constantly resting beside you
- Restlessness due to looking for warm places
- Keeps lifting paws off the ground
- Cold extremities, such as the ears and paws
When it gets a bit too cold for your dog, there are some things you can do such as:
- Allow your dog to grow longer and thicker coats.
- Get an appropriately sized sweater or coat for your dog to wear. You can also provide boots- but be aware that your dog may not like them!
- Turn on your heater or set your thermostat to around 70⁰F (22⁰C) if your dog has a thicker coat. You can go even higher for dogs with thinner coats, or for those that are younger or older.
- Make their crates and resting areas warmer by providing extra blankets and raising the bed off the floor through the use of cushions or duvets.
- Provide a hot water bottle wrapped in cloth next to where your dog rests.
- Provide sufficient warm water to prevent dehydration.
- Use a dehumidifier and restrict air flow through the area where your dog frequents to reduce heat loss.
In response to the question, “Is my house too cold for my dog?”, the solution is actually relatively simple!
Your house’s temperature may be too low if you notice that they are shivering, curling up into a ball, and lethargic. An easy way to test their actual body temperature directly is by using a thermometer.
The cold will be worse for puppies, old dogs, dogs that are sick, and those that have thin coats.
When temperatures begin to fall below 45⁰F (7.2⁰C), it can become increasingly dangerous for dogs as their immune system becomes less active. This may result in conditions such as hypothermia, canine colds, pneumonia and frostbite.
Some steps you can take to prevent any chill-related issues include providing external clothing for your dog to wear, setting the heater and thermostat to an appropriate temperature (around 70⁰F (22⁰C)), and using blankets to cover its resting area.
Your pup will surely appreciate everything that you do to keep it warm on a cold night through the wintry seasons.
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.