It can be hard to tell when your pet is feeling the cold, and unfortunately, they can’t tell us in so many words. Here is Greencross Vet’s advice on what to look for in cats, dogs, and smaller animals like rabbits and guinea pigs when you think your pet might be feeling the cold.
Common Signs Your Dog / Pet Is Feeling the Cold
Your pet may be shivering, trembling or cuddling into warm spaces. Dogs and cats may curl up on your bed, lounge or near the heater as they seek warmth. Pets will also start to avoid lying on cold tiles and will choose to rest in places with warm flooring or carpet. Generally, if you’re indoors and you’re feeling cold, then your pet will be cold too.
The same symptoms can apply to small animals, too. If you have a guinea pig or rabbit, watch for them trembling or shaking as well as burrowing and hiding in their hay.
What Are Some Common Cold Weather Problems for Dogs / Pets?
Sore and stiff joints can be a common condition in the cooler months, especially when it comes to our senior pets. You might notice your pet is having difficulty rising after a nap or is a little slower in the winter months.
Dry skin is another problem, especially if it is very cold outside and then they sit inside by the heater. Using a hairdryer to dry your dog after a bath may also cause dry and flaky skin. If your pet is outside, make sure to thoroughly towel dry them to remove any excess water from their coat. Try to avoid any extreme temperature changes.
Talk to your local Greencross Vets to discuss about winter preventative care for your pet.
What Are the Best Ways to Protect Your Dog / Pet from The Cold?
- Keep your pet inside
- Provide a warm, soft, elevated bed
- Warm coats are great for pets that are senior, small or have thin coats
- Move your guinea pigs hutch inside the house or garage
- Provide extra straw and hay so small pets can burrow and hide
- Keep all bedding dry
- Wrap a loose blanket over your pet, but don’t tuck them in. They still need to be able to move away from it if they overheat
- Walk your furry friend during the day when it’s not as cold
Can My Dog / Pet Get Sick from The Cold in Winter?
Pets can also be affected by frostbite and hypothermia from extended exposure to cold conditions. Whilst some longer haired breeds can handle the cold, most short haired or short legged breeds are not equipped to deal with extreme cold.
If your pet has been exposed to cold conditions, they could experience frostbite in their paws or ears or even hypothermia. It’s important to monitor your dog’s symptoms if they have been exposed to extreme cold conditions. Frostbite often won’t appear on the body until tissue damage has already taken place with symptoms ranging from discoloration of the affected skin to pain when touched. The symptoms of hypothermia include weakness and shivering that can worsen to total stiffness and shutdown of your pet’s body.
Whilst much of Australia does not experience extreme cold, it’s important to be mindful of the temperature throughout winter and ensure your pet isn’t exposed to the cold for extended periods or without winter clothes. This can help your pet avoid serious conditions and even just ensure their general comfort throughout the winter season.
Know What Your Dog / Pet Needs in Winter
We know your pet’s comfort is going to be a priority this winter, so there are a few things to keep in mind when prepping for the upcoming cold season.
Different coats and breeds will react differently to the cold, often depending on the pet’s country of origin. Pets have evolved to adapt to the conditions of their native environment over hundreds of years. Some pets, such as Huskies, are equipped to handle the cold with their double coat.
Tips For This Winter:
1) Fight the cold. In short haired pets, a coat can be a great substitute for their lack of a double coat. With the milder winters experienced throughout most of Australia however, make sure the temperature warrants a coat. We don’t want your pet to be sweating away under a jacket that’s not needed! Make sure to monitor your pet when wearing a coat on more mild days, to avoid the risk of heat stroke. Heat stroke symptoms include panting or disorientation.
2) Senior dogs (over the age of 7), are likely to be more vulnerable to cold weather and cold-related conditions. They will likely need a coat or jumper to help them handle cold temperatures, even if they didn’t need one in their prime.
3) The cold can make pre-existing conditions, such as arthritis worse. Keep an eye out for indicators that your pet’s joints may have grown stiff or swollen. These symptoms include reluctance to move and limping. If your dog has been exposed to frigid temperatures, monitoring their symptoms can help avoid serious conditions.
4) Don’t neglect your pet’s fur and coat care throughout the winter months. Winter usually encourages us to grow out our pet’s undercoats for extra warmth. This coat should remain well-groomed to avoid dirt, and debris or even parasites and microbes to getting trapped in the matter undercoat. These could cause dermatological issues and other health concerns for your pet.
Signs Your Dog is Cold
In the winter months, keep an eye on your pet’s symptoms to keep them comfortable and healthy. Look out for:
- Shaking or shivering
- Tucked tail
- Seeking out heaters and other sources of warmth
- Any change in behaviour, like seeming anxious or uncomfortable
- Seeking places for shelter or wants to turn around when on a walk
If these symptoms cannot be improved by warming your pet up, we’d recommend consulting your local Greencross Vets.