Do Dogs Get Cold In The Australian Climate? The Definitive Guide
As we get closer to the Winter months and the long nights draw in, we are thinking about bringing out the winter wardrobe.
Does your dog have a winter wardrobe too? Do they need one?
Today we are going to discuss the question of warmth. Do dogs get cold? And how cold is cold?
The short answer is yes, dogs absolutely get cold, but read on for tips and tricks to prevent your dog from shivering.
Do Dogs Get Cold In The Winter?
Dogs in general are far better than humans at regulating their body temperature. Their fur is both a warm coat and an efficient shield for extreme heat. Even the fluffiest and fattest dogs of them all get cold, however.
So it is fair to say that, yes, all dogs get cold, but not all dogs get cold in the same way.
There are various factors that come into play when deciphering if your specific dog is struggling or will struggle with the colder temperatures during the winter.
What type of coat for your dog have?
It won’t come as a shock to you that fine-coated dogs like Greyhounds, Chinese Crested Dogs and Chihuahuas are not cold weather dogs. (1)
These almost hairless breeds fair far worse in the cold than the thick furries like Newfoundlands, Huskies and Chow Chows. Winter and working dogs are often bred to have the thickest coats possible to protect them from the cold during their work.
Double coated breeds are well suited for arctic temperatures and may struggle during the summer.
What colour coat does your dog have?
The old adage that black absorbs heat and white repels it is somewhat true. If your dog has a deeper complexion, their fur can absorb more of the sun’s rays and retain it.
Lighter coloured dogs are not so effective at this. Something to bear in mind with this, however, is that the thickness of the coat will override the colour almost always. For example, a grey French Bulldog will not be as warm as a snow-white Siberian Husky just because of the absorbing powers that their coats provide.
How heavy is your dog?
A little extra body fat is a great insulator. While we don’t recommend or advocate that your dog be kept overweight in service of making them feel warmer, the subcutaneous fat of the rounder dogs out there does make them feel toastier in colder temperatures. That said, the number of complications associated with dog obesity is not worth the hassle. (2) It is still far more pleasant, and dare I say cost effective, to have a healthy dog that you have a dog coat for than to maintain a portly pup for the extra insulation.
How old is your dog?
Elderly dogs and young puppies have more difficulty regulating their body temperature. Healthy adult dogs are more capable of shielding themselves from the cold with their primed bodies. Therefore very young and very old dogs benefit from a little extra help to keep them warm in the colder months.
How Cold Is Too Cold For Dogs?
Okay, we have established that dogs can get cold, but what temperature is too cold for dogs?
After all, we just went through all of the factors that change how cold your specific dog may be in different conditions.
“In general, cold temperatures should not become a problem for most dogs until they fall below 45° F (7ºC), at which point some cold-averse dogs might begin to feel uncomfortable. When temperatures fall below 32° F (1ºC), owners of small breed dogs, dogs with thin coats, and/or very young, old or sick dogs should pay close attention to their pet’s well-being.” - Jennifer Coates, PetMD (3)
The emphasis on wellbeing is so important here. Think about how you feel and operate when you are cold. You have less joy for life. You are less likely to engage in activities. You just want to stay still and warm up.
It’s the same for our dogs. They also expend a lot of energy trying to keep warm as their body works hard to raise their internal temperature.
How Can I Tell If My Dog Is Too Cold?
Dogs are quite obvious when it comes to their temperature. Though they can’t speak, their behaviour will show loud and clear that they are struggling.
Here are some telltale signs that your dog is too cold:
Fidgeting and moving to warmer areas
If your dog is uncomfortable where they are, they will let you know. Dogs will huddle around sources of warmth when they feel it necessary. That source of warmth could be your bed, the fireplace, a dense rug, your lap - anywhere that seems to be a comfier spot than where they are now.
Are they following you around for cuddles or are they following you around for warmth? It is super cute when your dog hugs up to you but there may be a cry for help beneath that wish to be close to you!
Shivering is the body’s way of generating kinetic energy that helps raise your dog’s body temperature. If your pup is shivering, grab them a blanket pronto.
How Can I Stop My Dog From Getting Cold?
Dogs sleeping outside in the winter is generally not advisable. It’s not just about the ambient temperature, but also the types of weather that can plague your pup during the colder months.
For example, being cold from damp conditions because of rain or sleet can be more pervasive than a stiff cold wind. If your dog is kept outside, you are less able to monitor how they are dealing with the temperatures and weather conditions outside.
A comfortable warm dog bed indoors will help them to regulate their body temperature.
Consider extra layers
Dog coats and dog jumpers may sound silly to many but they serve a vital purpose. I used to think that dressing up your dog in “human clothing” is ridiculous, but then winter rolled around and my poor dog struggled to stay warm. Investing in a little dog hoodie for him was the best thing I could do for his health and wellbeing.
Coats are essential for walking in cold temperatures, but they can also be worn around the house if it is necessary.
Invest in blankets
To add to the number of cosy spots around the house that your dog can rest, it’s worth investing in some decent blankets.
Final Thoughts: Do Dogs Feel The Cold?
Dogs certainly don’t experience the world the same way that we do. We humans are pretty pitiful at regulating our body temperature without the plenty of layers of fabric we fashion into clothing.
But dogs do suffer in cold temperatures, and it is worth investing in some apparel for them to support them in the winter months.
Some dogs are bred to be as insulated as possible in cold weather, braving all sorts of arctic tundras with relative ease. The cleverness of their physiology is quite fascinating.
Gemme Johnstone from The Spruce Pets writes “They typically have thick, insulating double coats and bushy tails designed to wrap around their bodies to keep them cozy. Plus, their paws are often wide and covered in snow-repelling fur, and their ears tend to be small to prevent frostbite.” (4)
Dog breeds that do well in cold weather include:
- Siberian husky
- Alaskan Malamute
- Great Pyrenees
- Chow Chow
- Shiba Inu
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- American Eskimo Dog
- Tibetan Terrier
- Norwegian Elkhound
- Saint Bernard
- Murphy, L. March 16, 2021. “10 Best Hairless Dog Breeds”. The Spruce Pets. Retrieved May 25, 2021. https://www.thesprucepets.com/hairless-dog-breeds-4801015
- Williams, K & Downing, R. “Obesity in Dogs”. VCA Hospitals. Retrieved May 25, 2021. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/obesity-in-dogs
- Coates, J. November 19, 2018. “How Cold Is Too Cold for Your Dog?”. PetMD. Retrieved May 25, 2021. https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/how-cold-too-cold-dog
- Johnstone, G. March 12, 2021. “10 Best Dog Breeds for Cold Weather”. The Spruce Pets. Retrieved May 25, 2021. https://www.thesprucepets.com/cold-weather-dog-breeds-4776288