Can dogs get sick from cold weather?
“Put on your coat or you’ll catch a cold!”
Anyone else’s mom say this about them 43 times every winter? Well, we know now that we get sick from viruses and bacteria, not from cold weather.
However, it’s also true that stress (physiologic stress, not just trying to meet a deadline stress) can suppress the immune system. So while the cold itself won’t cause illness, it can make the body more susceptible to infections that it otherwise would have been able to fight off.
Dogs with other underlying health conditions may have more trouble dealing with colder temperatures, and exposure may worsen chronic health conditions in some cases.
Dogs can also get very sick from hypothermia. Exposure to extreme cold for too long can cause organ dysfunction that, in the worst cases, can be fatal. If your dog shows signs of hypothermia (especially if he or she seems lethargic or sluggish), get your pup inside and then to your vet right away!
How does cold weather affect dogs?
Just as hot weather can increase risk for dangers such as heat stroke in dogs, cold weather comes with its own set of concerns that we should be aware of.
Many dogs love playing in the cold and snow, but not all of them are built to tolerate low temperatures for long periods of time. Many of the things we think about with people and exposure apply to dogs as well. While severe conditions such as hypothermia and frostbite occur rarely, we want to make sure our furry friends are safe and healthy in the winter weather. Don’t let your dog spend too much time exposed to extreme cold.
Let’s take a look at the top ten most common questions I get asked about dogs and cold weather.
What are the best dog boots for cold weather and snow?
Generally speaking, I dislike dog boots, and I never recommend them for traction. Dog boots and booties interfere with your dog’s ability to “feel” the ground with his paws and disable much of the natural proprioceptive input from the many receptors in his toes.
However, I will admit that dog boots are the practical solution if you desire to protect the paw pads and lower legs from ice melt, salt, and other harsh chemicals.
As long as the boot fits snug (but not too tight!), covers the paw, and stays in place while your dog runs or walks, it fits the bill for this application. I don’t specifically recommend one brand over another for protection from winter elements.
Whatever you decide about your dog’s footwear, please take the time to visually and manually inspect your dog’s paws after every outdoor outing. It should just take a moment to run your hand over each paw and feel for ice or snow chunks lodged in the fur.
Senior Dogs Habitual Behavior Problems
With freezing temperatures fast approaching, you may be wondering about special precautions you should take for your dogs and cold weather. Older pups, especially toy or thin-coated breeds, sometimes need help staying warm when it’s chilly. Integrative veterinarian Dr. Julie Buzby answers common questions about keeping dogs safe and comfortable in the cold weather this winter.
As the temperatures drop where you live this winter, are you and your dog beginning to exchange “the look” when it’s time to go out? You know the one…the expression that has you both asking, “Isn’t it too cold for this?”
Just like you and me, extreme temperatures and wind chill impact your dog’s enthusiasm to spend time outside. But can cold weather also cause harm to your beloved dog?
So before you bundle up to head outside with your canine companion, let’s take a closer look at how cold weather can affect them, and how we can help keep dogs warm in winter.