How Can I Tell if My Cat or Dog Is Too Cold?
The winter chill might have us wanting to stay under the blankets all day, but our pets still need their exercise! How can you tell if your pet is getting too cold during the coldest time of the year?
Signs That Your Pet Is Too Cold
Just like us, our pets can get a little chilly! You might notice small changes in their behavior around the house as the weather cools down, like them avoiding cold tile floors and being more enthusiastic to cuddle up to you for body heat (and we’re not complaining). Things get even colder once you head out into the ice and snow for their daily walks or catio time!
We all know that every pet is different, and that definitely extends to how much they like the winter. Long-haired Maine Coons and thick-furred Great Pyrenees native to snowy mountains may love the cold weather and wait all year to romp in the snow. On the other hand, smaller breeds with thin coats might struggle to stay warm once the temperature drops.
So how cold is too cold? There are some general guidelines you can follow to make sure that you’re not exposing your pet to dangerously cold temperatures. Pets might feel chilly in lower temps and seek warmth, but they won’t face any risks until the temperature drops below 45ºF.
Most pets will be just fine for a quick romp outside in colder temperatures, but prolonged exposure for any extended period of time can cause serious health risks. (That definitely means the temperature is too cold for dogs to sleep outside in any unheated place!)
While it’s good to keep that 45ºF number in mind, you’ll have to use your best judgment to decide how long to let your pets stay outside in colder weather. As a cat or dog owner, you know your pet the best! Watch their behavior and keep an eye out for these common signs that your pet is feeling cold:
- Shivering (watch for other symptoms to know if your dog is cold or scared)
- Cold ears
- Curling up for warmth
- Whining or plaintive meowing
- Slowed movements
- Unusual sleepiness or lethargy
If you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, it’s time to bring them inside to warm up!
Left unattended, these more minor symptoms can lead to illness, frostbite, and hypothermia when their body temperature falls too low. If your pet has suffered from long-term exposure to the cold or is showing multiple symptoms listed above, that may be a sign of hypothermia.
Take your pet’s temperature to check if they’re dangerously cold. Healthy cat and dog body temperatures should be above 100ºF. If they drop below 98ºF, you should start making efforts to warm up your pet. If they drop below 90ºF, you should also contact your vet immediately for expert medical assistance.
The good news is that cats and dogs show you when they’re cold, and if you pay attention to their signals, you can prevent any cold weather mishaps and keep your furry friend happy and healthy.
How to Warm up a Cold Pet
The best way to keep pets warm is to get them inside and give them cozy places to rest and relax. As long as your home is above 45ºF, the temperature isn’t too cold for a dog in the house. However, cold windows, drafts, and floors still means that your cat or dog can get chilly.
Whether you watch your small dog shiver all day and know your dog is cold in the house or you’re trying to provide a place for your snow-loving pet to recuperate after a lengthy outdoor play time, there are simple things you can do to help your cat or dog warm up:
- Provide elevated surfaces where your pet can relax off of the cold floor—pet beds, couches, etc.
- Offer warm blankets to snuggle under or covered pet beds (especially if your cat or dog is cold at night)
- Provide a heated blanket, hot water bottle, or other warm object for them to cuddle up to (use supervision with any electric blankets and heating elements)
- See if they enjoy wearing a shirt or sweater for added warmth
- Give them warm water or broth drink to warm them up from the inside out
- Add area rugs to your space to cover cold wood or tile floors
- Check for drafts around your house and block them (this will benefit you and your heating bill as well!)
For their time outside, you can consider bundling them up in a jacket (we’re looking at you, hairless pets) and using booties to protect their paws. Most importantly, make sure they always have a way to retreat indoors when they’re ready to warm up! Be attentive to their signals and ready to turn around on your walks or answer their scratching at the door when they let you know it’s time.
Cold weather cat and dog care might require a little extra attention, but you’ll be rewarded with a happy pet and an extra snuggly cuddle buddy alllllll winter long! Stay warm, friends.