Our dogs’ fur is very versatile in how it protects them from both the heat and the cold. But that doesn’t mean their coats can keep them safe in extreme temperatures.
Just as pets shouldn’t be left out in warm weather (particularly in hot cars) for an extended period of time, they shouldn’t spend too long in freezing temperatures, regardless of their breed. Many assume that dogs and cats do better than people in cold weather because of their fur, but according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, it’s not true. They’re just as susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia, which is why it’s important for owners to know their dogs’ limits.
So how do you determine your pup’s tolerance to the cold? It all depends on their breed and overall health. Small dogs with shorter hair and thinner coats are more likely to become cold faster than bigger dogs with thicker, longer coats. That’s why booties, sweaters, and coats made for dogs are a good idea.
“Under 30 degrees, factoring in the wind chill, it’s not going to be safe for any dog to be outside for an extended period of time,” said Dr. Kim Smyth, a staff veterinarian with Petplan insurance. “You can buy yourself a little bit of time with warm weather clothing.” If you aren’t using booties, wipe down your dog’s paws when they come inside and check their pads for redness or swelling.
Certain conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease can make it harder for dogs to regulate their body temperature. The cold can also make conditions like arthritis worse.
Very young or old pets can also be more susceptible, which is why it’s important to check with your veterinarian.
Besides bundling your pup up, be sure to keep an eye on him for signs of hypothermia. “Shivering would be the first sign … so you want to get these dogs inside, wrap them up in a warm towel or blanket and get them to the vet if you need to,” Smyth said.
For more of a comprehensive breakdown of temperatures and their risks to different-sized dogs, check out the helpful infographic here. And as always, if you aren’t sure about whether your dog can handle certain conditions, ask your vet.
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