Winter usually brings with it sniffles and sneezes for most of us – but do dogs get cold in the winter ? Can your fur baby be affected in the same way like you do?
I have three fur babies – Selfie and Hyena, two Indian Pariahs, and Tuffy, one Indian Spitz. They are all double coated, but my Tuffy has longer hair and a fuzzier undercoat.
When Tuffy was a year old, it was his first winter as a furry adult, and given his coat structure I was carefree about him.
Being a Spitz, he has a lot of hair and this made me think that he won’t be feeling cold, and there isn’t any need to make him wear a sweater right now. Moreover, he lives indoors and has a warm blanket too.
It was mid-November when the temperature started falling rapidly in my city and I noticed a change in Tuffy’s behaviour.He was sad and whiny.
I let him out in some hope to make him happy.
Within a minute of letting him out, I looked out the window and saw him waiting by the door. The look on his face said, “Open the damn door, it’s cold out here.”
So I opened the door, and he ran in and went right to the nearest warm lap he could find. I went closer to him and found that he had a runny nose.
It was then that I realized he needs a warm coat. Minutes after wearing a sweater, he dozed off on his bed.
So, Yes. Dogs do feel cold and may get a cold in the winter, even furry breeds.
Dogs found in cold climates like Northern Canada, Alaska, anywhere near the Arctic Circle, usually have a double coat and don’t feel the cold as single coated dogs. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t get cold; it just takes them longer.
Read on to know more about dog care in winter.
Do dogs get cold in the winter ?
Of course, our furry companions feel the cold. They are warm-blooded and hence, can feel the cold just like we do.
They can also catch a cold in winter, but it is usually mild and resolves on its own.
Having said that, you need to be vigilant as your dog’s cold may turn out to be a flu infection such as kennel cough.
Dogs do not get cold and flu like the way we do, but they do get respiratory infections that create symptoms like a cold, such as sneezing and congestion.
Canine influenza, commonly known as dog flu or kennel cough is a common respiratory infection that affects canines like dogs.
Unlike common cold in humans, dog flu is not seasonal. Dogs can get infected with canine influenza all-year-round.
They tend to get infected with bacteria such as Bordetella bronchiseptica and viruses such as the parainfluenza virus (different from canine or dog flu).
You may hear your veterinary call a dog cold as canine cough or kennel cough. Most of these infections are due to a combination of airborne infectious agents, not just one.
Can dogs get a cold from humans ?
Respiratory and cold viruses are species specific, so this means that your dog won’t catch a cold from you and vice versa.
While dogs do get a cold, they do not get it like we do. Rhinoviruses are the most commonviruses that cause cold in humans, but these viruses do not attack a dog’s respiratory system.
Dogs have to regulate their body temperature with changing seasons. Without proper shelter and some kind of bedding, they can suffer badly from the cold.
The dry air in winter is just as hard for a dog as it is for us. So, we must make sure our four-legged friends have constant access to water to stay hydrated.
Dogs living indoors also require special care in wintertime.
How can I tell my dog is cold ?
When your dog is cold, he may shiver and sit/or stand in a hunched posture. He may also tend to lift or hold his paws off the ground when it’s too cold.
In severe cases, hypothermia can occur. Signs of hypothermia in dogs include lethargy, muscle stiffness, weakness, decreased alertness, and even loss of consciousness.
Interestingly, when a dog gets a cold, the signs are very similar to the signs in humans. In dogs, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate a cold from other respiratory infections like canine flu.
If your dog is vaccinated against canine flu and other respiratory infections, there are less chances that he may contract these respiratory viruses.
But if your dog catches a seasonal cold, he may show these most common symptoms.
- Runny nose
- Discharge from the eyes
- Lethargy; less active than usual
- Loss of appetite or thirst
- Laboured breathing
Note that, a dry honking cough and fever more commonly indicates the canine flu and could mean kennel cough specifically.
Keep a close eye on your dog and if he stops eating and drinking, has trouble breathing, or develops a fever, visit your veterinarian without any delay.
Let the vet know in advance that your dog is coughing, as many of these canine infections are contagious to other dogs.
How to treat your dog’s cold ?
If your dog gets a sniffle or two in winter, don’t worry, it can be managed at home.
Dog colds can be treated at home as long as your doggo is breathing, eating, and drinking normally.
You can treat him like you would treat yourself if you had a cold.
Feed your dog fluids such as chicken broth and it would make him feel better instantly.
Just like for us, fluid intake is important so your dog stays hydrated during the sick days.
Make sure there is fresh, clean water available all the time, as water in a bowl tends to get cold faster in the winter season.
Also, keep in mind that when your dog is sick his sense of smell will be affected, so offer foods with strong odors to encourage him to eat.
Pouring the broth from a can of tuna on his regular food or adding boiled chicken liver to his meal are some ways to increase odors.
You can also consider switching from walking your dog on a collar to using a harness so his throat is not irritated.
Keep your dog away from barking and over tiring himself so his trachea and lungs can heal. No running or wild play until he’s ok.
If you have many dogs at home, keep a watchful eye on your other dogs as they may develop symptoms too.
Do clean any discharge off your dog’s eyes and nose at least twice daily, and use a cotton ball dipped in warm water to soften any dried discharge around the eye.
If the cough and cold continues and your dog looks uncomfortable, seek veterinarian help.
Do not use any human medication as they are not safe for dogs. There are canine-specific remedies available that will work great for your sick dog.
However, do not try any of these on your dog without consulting with your vet first.
A persistent cough with fever and/or labored breathing may mean that your dog might be developing pneumonia. If you find your dog in this condition, rush him to the veterinary hospital as he may need antibiotics and supportive oxygen therapy.
How cold is too cold for a dog ?
Basically, this depends on the breed of the dog, but a good rule of thumb is if it is too cold for you, it is cold for your pooch as well.
Dogs like the Siberian Husky, typically found in colder climate areas have thicker coats, and hence, a higher tolerance for low temperatures.
Short-haired dogs like anItalian greyhound will naturally have a lesser tolerance for the cold and frost.
Age can also influence cold tolerance. Puppies and senior dogs have a more difficult time regulating their body temperature, both in hot and cold weather.
So if you have a pup or a dog 8-years or above, you should provide them with a sweater or coat and limit their exposure to extreme temperatures.
Winter can be harsh on dogs with health conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes.
Weather-related factors like chill wind, rain, sleet, or snow can make the amazing outdoors even more chilly for dogs.
While the exact temperature at which dogs get a cold may differ based on the dog’s breed and locality, you should take precautions for your dog if the temperature drops to 25 degrees Celsius and below.
How to keep outside dogs warm in the winter ?
When the mercury dips, everyone search for warmth, or else they may fall sick in the wintery tough weather.
While some of us are blest with a shelter and warm clothes, there are a few who quietly suffer and struggle to survive the bitter cold.
Voiceless and stranded, they sometimes freeze to death, or get frostbitten ears and paws.
You and I can make winters easier for strays on the road.
Follow these simple tips to keep your four-legged friends warm in the frigid winter season.
Bedding – During winters, street dogs would do just fine with any type of bedding and/or a blanket.
If the dog you’re caring for stays in the open, consider bundling him in warm layers to keep him snug on cold nights.
You can provide old bedsheets, curtains, blankets, rugs, or gunny/jute bags to keep a dog warm living outside on the streets.
Shelter – If you live in regions with extreme weather conditions like chill winds, snow, and rain, try and provide a shelter for the dog.
In harsh weather conditions, a warm bed and blanket would not be sufficient.
Practically, making is easier than finding.
You can easily make a makeshift (temporary) shelter using bricks, hard cardboard, leftover boxes, old tires, etc. for the stray dogs to survive in the open.
Warm clothing – Smaller breeds, breeds with very short or thin coats, puppies, and older dogs are more vulnerable to the cold weather.
Before it gets very cold outside, it is a good idea to give a fleece coat, sweater or any kind of winter jacket to a dog living outdoors.
You can take the help of a local NGO to help put on the winter coats on the stray dogs.
Food and water – It’s a kind gesture to provide food for the street dogs all year round, but in winter it becomes more difficult for them to search for food.
On a bitterly cold night or a snowy day, a readily available meal left at your doorstep will be a blessing and sometimes the difference between life and death.
If you live in an area where temperatures drop drastically, make sure you check the water supply for the stray dogs daily to be sure it hasn’t frozen.
Remember, anything you do will help these homeless animals, no matter how small it may seem.
How to keep your pet dog warm in winter ?
Apart from providing a warm and cozy bed, here are some more personal suggestions to care of your pet dog in winter season.
Grow that fur – I do this for my Spitz. At least 6-8 weeks before winter can roll in, I stop cutting and trimming his hair and let his fur grow.
By doing so, your dog will adjust gradually to the changing weather. He will enjoy the outdoor chills which will help stimulate his fur to grow thicker.
Bathe him less – Winter and water both bring dryness. So, bathe your dog only once a month or when he needs a bath really bad.
And when you do so, bathe him with warm water on a sunny day, and keep him indoors.
Make sure you completely dry your dog’s coat before leaving him outdoors, even if it is for a minute.
For winters, you can try to dry-clean your dog with dry shampoos.
Just a few sprays and towel wipes makes Tuffy shine and smell good in seconds.
Protect the paws – During winters you must check your dog’s paws regularly for any signs of cold-weather issues like cracked or bleeding paw pads.
This is very common in dogs living in snowy regions. So, consider using winter boots for your dog when you take him out for longer walks in the snow.
Avoid giving cold water or food – This is a very important practice that dog parents must follow.
Water and food tend to become cold faster (sometime freeze) in winter. So, keep providing fresh water at regular intervals and provide warm food to your pets.
Cold water and food during the harsh winter season can make your furry friend fall sick and catch a cold.
Watch for problems – Know your pet well and try understanding what the problem is if your pet is behaving unusual.
If your dog is shivering, whining, barking, seems weak or starts looking for warm places to rest, get him to a warmer place like a fire pit and try to comfort him with layers of warm blankets. These may be signs of hypothermia.
If you suspect your dog has hypothermia or frostbite, call your veterinarian immediately.
Most importantly, never leave a dog unattended in a cold car, as it can accelerate symptoms of hypothermia.
Now that the answer to do dogs get a cold in winter is very much clear, we can take care of our four-legged friends better this winter season.
It doesn’t matter what breed or size the dog is, there’s no amount of fur that can keep a dog safe from winter’s harsh elements.
If you have a dog in your neighbourhood, warm your heart, come forward and do your best to help him survive this cold weather. Call your local NGO for more ideas to help him.
Reach out to your dog-lover friends and together make this winter easier for the voiceless and offer them some degrees of comfort.
“ONE kind deed can warm THREE winter months”
Share this very informative article with all the dog lovers out there.