If you inhabit a colder climate, it’s natural to wonder whether your dog’s fur coat is sufficient to protect them from the winter cold. The short answer is that dogs can get cold but don’t experience freezing temperatures the same way we do. Some dogs have thick fur coats and compact bodies that retain heat more efficiently than longer-legged or thinner-haired breeds like Whippets or Dalmatians.
While having fur offers some degree of insulation against low temperatures and windchill factors during winter months, there are still measures you can take to make sure your pup doesn’t freeze out there.
Dog’s Body Temperature Is Higher Than Humans
You may well be surprised to know that a dog’s body temperature ranges from 101 degrees Fahrenheit to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
If it’s 30 degrees Fahrenheit outside and you’re a human with an internal body temperature of 98.6 degrees, you’ll probably feel chilled and unpleasant. Suppose you’re a dog with an internal body temperature of 101 degrees. In that case, you won’t notice anything out of the ordinary—unless you have some kind of nervous system disorder that causes your temperature to fluctuate wildly from moment to moment (in which case, please see a vet).
Dogs aren’t quite as sensitive to frigid temperatures as we are because their bodies function differently than ours do:
- They sweat less often and pant more due to fewer sweat glands
- They don’t go through puberty
- They don’t experience menopause
Dogs’ Bodies Are Built Differently Than Ours
Let’s compare the human body with that of a dog.
- A dog’s fur helps regulate its body temperature by trapping heat close to the skin and keeping it there until it’s needed elsewhere (e.g., when the dog is rolling around outside). The blood vessels close to a dog’s skin can also open broader or narrower depending on the amount of heat that needs to be released into or retained by its body through evaporation.
- They’re also able to shunt blood around better than ours, which means that when dogs get hot, they don’t let it affect other parts of their anatomy as much as humans would if exposed to similar conditions. Shunting refers to how dogs’ bodies can move warm blood away from their extremities and into their core—this makes them better equipped than humans to stay warm in colder climates and cooler when they’re in warmer ones.
- Dogs can regulate their temperature much more efficiently than humans and can withstand colder temperatures without succumbing to frostbite or hypothermia, which can lead to death in extreme cases. While we humans can heat and cool our bodies through external air temperatures, dogs’ internal body temperature is quite different. A dog’s capillary beds are very close to the skin, enabling heat transfer to occur more efficiently than in humans. They also have hair that insulates them from getting too hot or cold based on external conditions. Dog’s fur is much thicker and oilier than ours, which helps keep them dry and warm when they’re outside in wet weather.
- In addition, the dog’s saliva contains enzymes that fight off bacteria and protect against infections caused by eating uncooked meat (or other foods). These enzymes also help break down starches into simple sugars for easier digestion in the small intestine!
All Dogs Aren’t Created Equal, Though
It’s worth noting that all dogs aren’t created equal when it comes to staying warm in cold weather. Some breeds are built for colder climates, while others are made for warmer ones. And then there are the breeds that can handle both types of weather relatively well and those that aren’t suited for either extreme.
If your dog gets cold, consult a vet and administer an antibiotic like Clavamox, which can help treat bacterial infections in dogs. You can get your hands on it quickly through an online pet store.
Some Breeds Are Built For Colder Climates
With thick fur coats and compact bodies, huskies, Saint Bernards, and Newfoundlands can retain heat more efficiently than longer-legged or thinner-haired breeds like Whippets or Dalmatians.
- Huskies: The Siberian husky was bred to pull sleds through bitter winter conditions in Siberia, so this breed is an obvious choice for cold weather. They have a thick coat of fur covering their entire body and legs, which helps them stay warm in cold temperatures.
- Saint Bernards: This large dog breed originated in the harsh mountain passes of Switzerland and France, being a rescue dog that could find humans buried under avalanches or snow. Its long legs help it wade through deep snow when searching for people who need help; its short tail also keeps the rear end of its body warm as it works—a bonus feature when you’re working outside every day in frigid conditions.
If you’re worried about your dog being cold, the best way to protect them is by providing them with plenty of shelter and a warm bed. If they’re outside for long periods, make sure they have water and snacks that won’t freeze in subfreezing temperatures, so they don’t get dehydrated or hungry. And if you’re visiting family during the holidays, keep an eye out for special treats that might be unsafe for dogs (like chocolate), so they don’t get sick while having fun.