Why Is My Dog Cold To The Touch?

Is your dog cold to the touch? ¹

So your dog comes around for the usual caresses, and you instantly notice that they feel much colder than normal.

Well, it’s not often that a dog’s body feels cold, so it’s natural to be concerned if your dog feels cold to touch. 

The most common reason as to why this happens is the weather.

Your dog may feel cold to touch because the weather is cold.

Without proper clothing we all get cold hands and feet in freezing weather, the same applies to our pets.

Having said that, a dog can feel cold due to an underlying illness, especially if it isn’t a cold day.  

Why is my dog so cold to touch?

A dog can feel cold to touch for a number of reasons, and the first suspect is usually a cold environment. If your dog’s body feels very cold to touch, you should check if the house is too cold for your dog. Try turning on the heat and throw a blanket over his/her shoulder to help them keep warm, or wear them a snugly-fitted dog sweater. 

Dogs feel cold when they find themselves in a chilly environment, and this is truer for puppies and dogs with short coats. Some dog breeds are able to deal with cold weather very well, but not all dogs can do that. Therefore, if you find that your dog’s cold, help them stay warm and comfortable.  

My dog’s ears and paws are cold

When you’re out on a very cold day, you notice that your fingers and ears get really cold, this also happens to a dog. A dog’s ears and paws can feel very cold to touch if the dog has been out in cold weather, or was left in a chilly air-conditioned room for too long. 

Again, if your dog’s extremities feel very cold to touch, first check the weather and environment for clues and answers. If it’s cold weather and the house is chilly, that might be why. 

Now, if your house is not cold and your dog still feels cold, you should check their body temperature because there may be something else going on. The normal temperature of a dog’s body is between 101 and 102.5 o F, anything lower than 99 o F is too cold for a dog. 

You can check your dog’s internal body temperature by inserting a thermometer into the dog’s rectum for a few seconds. This is not a pleasant exercise for dogs, and your pet may protest, so you should get someone to help you hold the dog in place. If you get a reading that is lower than 99 o F, talk to your vet about it immediately. 

Is it normal for dogs to feel cold?

It’s not unusual for dogs to get cold, in fact, they will get cold and chilly whenever they find themselves in an environment that is too cold for them. Dogs with thick fur and long coats are better at handling cold weather than short-haired dogs. 

The length of a dog’s coat plays a very important role in insulating them in cold weather, the longer and thicker the coat, the better the dog will handle cold weather. The opposite is also true, because dogs with thin fur do not have much insulation from cold and will feel the chilly weather really fast. 

A thick layer of body fat is also another form of insulation. In cold temperatures, certain fat cells are triggered to burn calories and release stored energy in the form of heat, which warms up the body. 

So, thin-coated dogs with a thick layer of body fat will also be able to handle cold, this is a compensation for lack of hair. But, skinny dog breeds with thin-coats cannot do much to protect themselves from cold, and if your pet falls into this category, then you will have to always help them keep warm, with snug sweaters and blankets. 

What causes low temperature in dogs?

Overexposure to cold, being in cold water for a long time, wet fur or trauma are all possible causes of hypothermia. Hypothermia is the medical term used to describe extreme low temperature in dogs. When a dog is left out in the cold without any means of staying warm, their body temperature can drop to dangerous low levels, and this condition is called hypothermia. 

Hypothalamic diseases, which affect the hypothalamus, can also be the cause of extremely low body temperature because they affect the ability of the brain to regulate and maintain the normal body temperature. For instance, hypothyroidism, a hypothalamic disease, is the deficiency of thyroid hormones which impacts all aspects of metabolism including heart rate and body temperature. 

There are different degrees of hypothermia, it can be mild, moderate or severe with complications impacting normal bodily functions, including the immune system, breathing, heart rate and blood flow. Hypothermia can be fatal if the body is unable to sustain its normal temperature for a long period of time.

The normal body temperature for dogs ranges from 100.9 to 102.5. Mild hypothermia is when the internal temperature of a dog’s body drops to between 95 and 89.2 o F. Moderate hypothermia is when the temperature drops to between 89.6 and 82.4 oF, and anything less than 82 oF is severe hypothermia.

If your dog feels cold, and you have done everything possible to keep them warm, but they still feel cold, or if they feel cold on a warm day, contact your vet immediately.

What to do if my dog is cold?

As soon as you notice that your dog is cold, wrap them in a thick warm blanket, and turn up the heat. You can heat up the blankets in a tumble dryer or a radiator, and also place a heating pad or a hot bottle of water close to their body. Also, monitor your dog’s temperature very closely, say every 15 minutes.

When your dog is cold, don’t waste any time before swinging into action, because quick treatment is important to prevent any complications. Ensure that your dog isn’t left out in cold weather for long because they too can get frostbite, especially on their paws, ears and tail. 

Severe hypothermia can quickly escalate if a dog is left out for too long in the cold. If you don’t see any improvement even after taking measures to keep your dog, get your vet to intervene. Your dog may have a more serious problem and probably needs warm water enemas and IV fluids to raise their internal body temperature.  

Do puppies get cold easily?

Yes, puppies, unlike adult dogs, do not have enough body fat and thick-enough fur to keep them warm on chilly days. Since they are yet to build-up enough body fat and thick coat, they are unable to efficiently keep themselves warm. Even long-haired puppies do not have enough hair yet, until they become at least 1-year-old. 

Puppies are like babies, and they need extra care and attention. If you have seen puppies with their mom, you would notice that when it’s cold, the puppies huddle around their mom while the mother uses her body to shield them from the cold weather. 

So if you have a puppy, ensure that you keep them warm in a pen with blankets, sweaters, and heating pads. In freezing weather, ensure that the overall temperature of the house is warm and comfortable.

How do I protect my dog from the cold?

If your dog is very sensitive to cold, here are a few steps to protect them from cold.

Keep them warm with clothes: Skinny dogs with thin coats, senior dogs, puppies, and sick dogs are all sensitive to cold, and a nice comfy sweater and warm blankets will go a long way to keep them warm. Dressing your dog warmly in cold weather shouldn’t be optional, especially if you’re taking them outdoors. 

Keep them indoors: even dogs with the thickest furs cannot survive outdoors for very long in frigid temperature. They have paws and ears that are exposed and can get frostbite. Keep your dogs indoors when the weather is freezing. Also, don’t leave your dogs alone in the car. Cars can get very cold during winter, and your dog alone in a cold car is a bad idea.

Provide them with enough insulation: if your dogs sleep outside at night, and you can’t bring them indoors when it’s cold. Then provide them with extra warm clothes, insulating materials and a source of heat to keep them warm. Also, check them as often as possible to ensure that they are comfortable and not freezing. 

Closing Thoughts

Dogs get cold in chilly weather, and if your dog feels cold to touch, it may be because their environment is too cold for them. Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures is one thing you should consciously avoid because dogs can get really sick from extreme cold, and their body parts can get frozen. 

Hypothermia is the condition where the body temperature is too low, and severe hypothermia can be fatal. The best way to prevent your dog from getting too cold in chilly weather is by taking a few extra steps to keep them warm. Even if your dog has thick fur, it’s still important to make sure that they don’t get too cold. 

Photo credits

¹ Photo by Andrew Spencer on Unsplash