An expanding polar vortex may be to blame for this January’s frigidly cold temperatures, but to your pet, the only thing that matters is getting in and out of the cold quickly. These below zero degree days have us on the watch for signs of cold or discomfort in our pets. Just like we turn up the thermostat or search for an extra blanket when we’re cold, dogs act in certain recognizable ways when they are trying hard to keep warm. Watch for these signs, courtesy of the Dog House blog, to know when your dog is feeling the chill.
Hunched up in a ball. A dog who is looking to stay warm will curl up with their head, tail and feet tucked under and around their body. This action allows them to better conserve body heat. Try a coat for the times when your pet must be outdoors in order to help them to conserve heat.
Three-legged dance. If you notice your dog standing with one foot in the air, and then shifting their weight to raise another foot, then the ground your dog is walking on is too cold for them. Try dog boots when you take your dog outside. These often takes some getting used to for pets, so allow them to wear the boots indoors for a while first.
Shivering and shaking. Although trembling can also indicate excitement in dogs, shaking that occurs while outside in the cold is usually an involuntary movement showing that their body is trying to generate more heat. A shivering pup needs a nice, warm cuddle indoors!
Lack of stretching. If your dog emerges from a sleeping or curled up position in the morning and does not stretch, they are still feeling a chill. Make sure your dog has a cozy sleeping arrangement on cold winter nights.
The parts of your dog most susceptible to frostbite are the areas of their body farthest from the heart: the ears, paws, and tail. After extended exposure to cold, check for the clinical signs of frostbite, which include discoloration, coldness or brittleness of the skin, pain or swelling of the area or blisters of any kind.
Frostbite is a serious condition that should be treated immediately. Consult your veterinarian if you suspect your dog has been overexposed to cold, and take immediate steps to warm them. DO NOT rub or massage the infected area OR use dry heat such as a heating pad or hairdryer. Instead, wrap your dog in warm, dry towels or blankets. You may begin to slowly thaw the frostbitten areas with a warm (NOT HOT) water compress. Be sure to thoroughly dry the area before exposing them again to any cold temperatures.
For more information about recognizing and treating frostbite, please visit the VCA Animal Hospitals website. The very best thing you can do, however, is prevent your dog from overexposure to cold. Limit their time outside and dress them appropriately if they show signs of extreme cold. As always, give your dog plenty of cuddle time to stay warm and dry indoors on these cold winter days!