Just like humans, dogs can experience discomfort and health issues in cold weather, especially if they are not adequately protected. A dog’s tolerance for low temperatures varies based on factors such as breed, size, coat type, and overall health. Smaller breeds, short-haired dogs, and those with less body fat are generally more susceptible to the cold. Breeds with thick coats, designed for colder climates, may have better tolerance.

There is no specific temperature universally considered as “cold” for all dogs, as it depends on the factors mentioned above. However, as a general guideline, temperatures below freezing (32°F or 0°C) can pose a risk to many dogs and at these temperatures some dogs can develop serious cold-associated health problems like hypothermia and frostbite. It’s essential for dog owners to be aware of their pet’s individual needs and take precautions, such as providing warm shelter, appropriate clothing, and limiting outdoor exposure in extremely cold conditions. Some cold-averse dogs may even begin to feel uncomfortable when temperatures fall below 50° F (10° C).

How To Tell If A Dog Is Cold

A dog’s furry coat doesn’t always mean they will be automatically kept warm during the autumn and winter months.  Luckily, a dog’s response to the cold is not dissimilar to ours. You will soon notice some distinct physical signs when they are feeling the chill, which tend to include:

  • Shivering/trembling
  • Seeking shelter
  • Lifting their paws off the ground
  • Curling up into a ball
  • Cold to touch
  • Acting weak or lethargic
  • Seeing warmer spaces around your home

How Can I Keep My Dog Warm?

There are lots of tips and tricks you can try to help keep your dogs and other pets warm and comfortable during cold weather.  Here are our suggestions:

Provide Adequate Shelter

Make sure your dog has a warm and dry place to rest, such as a well-insulated doghouse or a cosy indoor bed. At nighttime, elevate their bed, if possible, to reduce heat loss. The cold ground can make it much harder to keep warm. Create a warm bedding area by placing warm blankets or thermal beds in your dog’s sleeping area to provide extra insulation.

Heat pads designed for pets can also be used, but make sure they are pet-safe and used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. You could also consider investing in a self-warming pet mat, which is designed to retain your dog’s body heat, so they keep themselves warm.

Draught excluders can great for sealing door and window gaps near their sleeping area too.

Use Dog Clothing

Consider dressing your dog in a dog sweater or jacket, especially if it has short fur or is a smaller breed. Ensure that the clothing fits properly and doesn’t restrict movement.

Protect Their Paws

Cold surfaces and icy conditions can be harsh on your dog’s paws. Use dog booties to protect their feet from cold pavement, ice, and salt.

After walks, wipe their paws to remove any ice and snow, and to protect them from toxic grit salt or other chemicals laid to de-ice the road.

Adjust Their Diet

In colder weather, dogs may burn more calories to stay warm. Consult with your vet to ensure your dog’s diet provides sufficient energy and adjust their food accordingly. You may also wish to warm their food by adding some warm water or stock (avoid stock containing ingredients like onion or garlic which are toxic for a dog) to help raise their body temperature. That said, always check that it isn’t too hot and don’t be tempted to microwave your pet’s meal. Microwaves cause the fat molecules to radically change, making fats less digestible, and ultimately, they can become harmful to your pet’s long-term health.

Limit Outdoor Exposure

Shorten the duration of outdoor activities in extremely cold weather, particularly for dogs that are more vulnerable to the cold.

Monitor your dog for signs of discomfort or distress during outdoor play.

Incorporate more indoor stimulation games such as playing tug of war, hide and seek, teach them a new trick, create an indoor obstacle course, or hide treats around your home and let them sniff out throughout the day. Providing more mental stimulation will make up for the decrease in outdoor time by keeping them active without exposing them to harsh conditions.

Regular Grooming

Keep your dog’s fur well-groomed, but don’t trim it too short in winter. A longer coat provides additional insulation.

Ensure that your dog is free of mats, as they can trap moisture and make it harder for the dog to stay warm.

Maintain A Consistent Indoor Temperature

Keep your home at a comfortable and consistent temperature during the winter. This helps both your family and pets stay warm.

Ensure Efficient Insulation

Adequate insulation in your home helps retain heat. Properly insulating doors and windows prevents drafts and contributes to a warmer indoor environment.

Consider Zoning

If possible, use a zoning system for your heating. This allows you to control the temperature in different areas of your home, ensuring that your pet’s favourite areas are adequately heated.

Use Programmable Thermostats

Set your thermostat to a comfortable temperature when you’re at home and awake, and program it to lower when you’re away or asleep. Many modern thermostats allow for programming and remote control via smartphones.

Check Heating Systems Regularly

Ensure that your heating system is in good working condition. Regular maintenance, such as cleaning filters and checking for any issues, can prevent unexpected breakdowns during cold weather. Regular boiler servicing will ensure your heating system is in full working order.

The most important thing to remember is to always pay attention to your dog’s behaviour and adjust their care based on their individual needs. If you have concerns about your dog’s ability to tolerate the cold, consult with your vet for personalised advice. Don’t forget, if you need help tweaking or servicing your heating system to ensure it is working as efficiently as possible, you know where to reach us.