Here's How to Tell If Your Dog Is Cold (and May Need a Coat!)

Unsplash / Mia Anderson

You may think that with all their fur, dogs don’t get often get cold. But that’s not the case. In fact, says Ryan Rucker, DVM and Zesty Paws spokesperson, a dog’s normal body temperature is higher than humans’ and ranges from 100 to 101.5 degrees. “This means that they can feel cold at smaller changes in temperature than we do and notice changes that we may not notice,” she said.

But how do you know if your dog is cold? And what can you do about it? We talked to two vets for answers.

Do Dogs Get Cold?

Yes, just like us, dogs get cold. Though they are naturally adapted to be malleable to fluctuations in temperature, in extreme temperature changes they may feel a bit of a chill. This is especially true in smaller breeds with a thin fur coat, says Zay Satchu, DVM, co-founder and chief veterinary officer at Bond Vet.

Larger breeds and breeds with thick fur tend to regulate their temperature a bit more efficiently – in both cold and warm temperatures, she says.

How Can You Tell If Your Dog Is Cold?

Their response to cold is much like ours, vets say. “They can shiver, tremble, and seek warmth by cuddling, hiding under blankets, snuggling, etc.,” says Dr. Rucker. Dr. Satchu adds dogs may have a hunched posture and lift or hold their paws off the ground.

“Another good sign is that if they feel cold to your touch, then they probably are,” Dr. Rucker says. “For instance, if their paws or ears are cold to the touch, it is very likely they are cold.”

Related: 3 Activities to Help Your Pups Beat the Winter Blues

Can Dogs Get Too Cold?

In extreme cases, hypothermia in dogs is possible, Dr. Satchu says. Signs of hypothermia include lethargy, muscle stiffness, weakness, decreased mental alertness, and even loss of consciousness.

How Can Owners Help Their Dog If They’re Cold?

Dogs are able to withhold heat with clothing articles just like humans. Using coats for dogs with a thin fur coat and small dogs is always a good idea when ambient temperatures are low, says Dr. Rucker.

Additionally, it is not recommended to leave dogs outdoors for long periods of time when ambient temperatures drop below 32 degrees. Below 20 degrees, the potential for frostbite and hypothermia is present. Overall, says Dr. Satchu: “Sweaters, coats, booties, and a cozy place to snuggle up are all good ways to help keep your dog from feeling chilly.”

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