Here in Toronto, we seem to be enjoying a bit of a reprieve from the vastly cold temps we’ve been experiencing for the last few weeks. It’s definitely been the time to stay indoors and cozy up by a fire or with a blanket.
While most of us know when it’s too cold to enjoy the outdoors for any great length of time, do we know when it’s too cold for our pets? The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) has one simple rule of thumb: if it’s too cold for you, then it’s likely too cold for your pet.
There are several factors to consider when taking/letting your pet out for prolonged periods of time in the winter months:
Dogs with thick, double-layered coats tend to be the most cold-tolerant (think Siberian Huskies, Newfoundlands, or Samoyeds). In most cases, these breeds have been developed in Northern climates and may also have other anatomical, physiological, or behavioral attributes that allow them to thrive when it’s frigid. On the other hand, dogs who have exceptionally thin coats (e.g., Greyhounds and Dobermans) suffer the most in cold weather.
On a clear day, black, brown, or other dark-coated dogs can absorb significant amounts of heat from sunlight, keeping them warmer in comparison to those with light-coloured coats.
Small dogs generally get colder more easily than large ones. Body fat is also a good insulator; thinner dogs tend to get colder quicker than do their heftier counterparts.
You should also be aware that temperature as it registers on a thermometer isn’t the only environmental factor that affects how your pets feel the cold.
A brisk breeze can quickly cut through a dog’s coat and greatly decreases its ability to insulate and protect against cold temperatures.
Rain, wet snow, heavy fog, going for a swim… any form of dampness that soaks through the fur can quickly chill a dog even if the air temperature is not all that cold.
Cloudy days tend to feel colder than do sunny days since dogs can’t soak up the sun and warm themselves.
If dogs are going to be very active while outside, they may generate enough extra body heat to keep them comfortable even if the temperature isn’t.
To avoid hypothermia and frostbite, keep a vigilant eye on your pet when the mercury drops. If you have an outside dog, make sure its shelter is elevated and insulated, with a wind flap. Line it with blankets or soft fabric, and always ensure there’s enough room for your pet to stretch and stand in. Once an animal starts to display symptoms of cold distress like shivering or paw tapping, that’s a sure sign to take your furry friend inside, and possibly consult a vet.