In the winter, dog owners need to watch for signs a dog is cold, because keeping your dog warm during the colder months is part of taking good care of your dog.
If your dog is a smaller breed, has less body fat, a thinner coat of fur, is a breed for warmer climates, or is an older dog with a weaker immune system, you’ll need to be especially aware of signs your dog is cold.
But how can you tell if your dog is cold? Aside from the obvious sign a dog is cold of trembling or shaking, there are a few other signs a dog is cold to watch out for this winter. If you’re worried that your pup might be too cold, this guide is for you.
In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about looking after your dog in the colder months.
How Can You Tell if Your Dog is Cold? Signs a Dog is Cold
As mentioned, one of the most important aspects of taking good care of your dog in the winter is being able to tell that your dog is cold.
Your dog can’t talk, so your dog won’t be able to tell you that it’s cold. However, you can figure it out for yourself if you’re paying attention.
Some dog breeds do great in cold weather, but many dog breeds will struggle when the temperature drops.
While breeds that were designed for sub-zero temperatures might be happier playing in the snow, plenty of other dogs are genetically suited for warmer climates and struggle when the temperatures start to drop.
Furthemore, while all dogs have a fur coat, not all dogs have a fur coat that protects them against very cold weather.
There are plenty of signs to look out for if you’re worried that your dog might be cold. Here are some of the most important signs a dog is cold:
- Anxious behavior where it’s clear they’re not happy
- Shaking, trembling or shivering (dogs do this in an attempt to warm up their body)
- Ears pinned back
- Their ears feel cold to the touch
- Hunched posture and they have their tail tucked in
- Whining to let you know they’re uncomfortable, or barking at you
- Not wanting to walk anymore
- Walking very slowly all of a sudden
- Trying to turn back towards your home
- Seeking shelter instead of walking
- Lifting paws off the ground constantly
- Trying to curl up to preserve body heat
No dog should have to experience being cold like this, especially on a walk. The second you see any signs like this, it is important to turn back home and get them warm again.
If you notice these signs your dog is too cold, you may need to start planning shorter walks, get your dog some booties and a dog coat, and ensuring your home is nice and warm upon return by cranking the thermostat up a bit before you leave for a walk. Dogs still need walks, so try these tips, because the answer to avoid your dog getting cold is not to stop walking them.
Signs Your Dog Got Frostbite or Hypothermia From Being Out in the Cold
Being unaware of the signs a dog is cold and letting your dog stay out in freezing weather (even if you are walking) can lead to frostbite and hypothermia. The worst part is that the former can take several days to develop, which means you might not even notice it right away.
Signs of frostbite in dogs include:
- Skin that is pale, cold, and your dog is exhibiting signs that their skin is painful to touch
- Redness, swelling, and blisters on exposed skin
- The affected area of their skin could turn black, and the signs of frostbite are typically present on the extremities (watch for signs of frostbite on their ears, tail or paws)
Signs of hypothermia include:
- Acting weak (risk they’ll lose consciousness)
- Exhibiting signs of muscle stiffness
- Your dog is having trouble walking
- Prolonged shivering when you’re home and thought they’d have warmed up by now
- Pale gums
- Acting confused or ‘off’
- Slow and shallow breathing
Hypothermia can range from mild to severe, and it can be fatal when left untreated. This is why it is so important that you don’t wait for the signs of cold to appear in your dog - as soon as you feel it might be too cold, turn back.
Winter dog care is important, but so is looking after your dog in general. There are plenty more tips and pieces of advice that you might benefit from if you’re looking to be the best pet parent you can be to your dog.
Find Out if Your Dog is a Cold-Weather Dog Breed
We hope that this guide on the signs a dog is cold has been able to ease your mind and give you a better idea of how to ensure your dog is safe and warm this winter. Being aware of the signs will help you ensure your dog doesn’t struggle in the cold all winter long.
Remember that not every dog was made for cold weather, and a dog’s fur coat isn’t always going to be an adequate line of defense against the cold for every dog.
To find out if your dog is a cold-weather dog breed, why not get a dog DNA test from CirclePaw? The results can tell you which breed (or mix of breeds) your dog is. Not only can this information tell you how well your dog might be able to cope with winter conditions, but these DNA insights from CirclePAW can also reveal your dog’s likely personality and behavioral traits. A dog DNA test can also give you further insights into their overall health and dietary requirements.
- NCBI, In vitro evaluation of the effect of hypothermia on coagulation in dogs via thromboelastography: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23016812/
- “Cool” test: How to tell if your dog is too cold by Ontario SPCA and Humane Society