Dogs in winter, just like cats, adapt to the changing temperatures. Dr Maria Grazia Calore, veterinary doctor and expert in pet behaviour, illustrates the physical and behavioural changes that can be seen in man’s best friend during a cold snap, and provides us with some tips to care for our beloved pups.
Brrr, it’s freezing!
Unlike the more sleepy domestic feline, a dog does not abandon its dynamism when the cold weather sets in. In fact, it is best not to generalise: for example, a dog that lives outside will probably have a larger appetite as it will need more calories to maintain a stable body temperature.
Generally, a large dog breed with a thick undercoat and long outer coat will react well to a drop in temperature: he will be more lively and will revel in all the elements the cold snap brings. By contrast, a smaller or short-coated dog will probably suffer more with the arrival of cold weather: it may become more lazy and be reluctant to go out or it may show discomfort by shivering, which is physiologically useful to raise the body temperature. In particular, puppies or senior dogs will find it more difficult to maintain a constant body temperature, and because of this they are at risk of hypothermia, or in extreme cases, death.
Some tips to help our four-legged friends
What can we do to better face the winter with our dog? We can give those that feel the cold more a waterproof coat for walks and ensure they sleep indoors. Also, we should remember to dry well their fur well when they come back in from a walk as any moisture left in the coat increases heat loss. In addition, it is preferable to take them for a walk during the warmest part of the day or by opting for shorter and more frequent trips out. Also, don’t subject our friends to sudden changes in temperature between the inside and outside to prevent them developing a cough or a runny nose. And if it snows, don’t forget that many dogs have particularly sensitive paws and the salt used to prevent roads from freezing irritates their skin: in these cases, it’s not a bad idea to use shoes.
Photo Credits: Elena Shamilova