In some parts of the U.S., “spring has sprung” but in the Northeast, like Vermont where I live with two thin-coated Weimaraners, we have another two months of winter to bear, including a current windy cold snap in the single digits. Therefore, vigilance about keeping your dog protected from extreme and prolonged cold conditions should still be top of mind for some of us. (You folks who live in warm climates can read this with gratitude it doesn’t apply to you!)
Even Labradors Can Suffer From The Cold
Just because your dog has a fur coat doesn’t mean that is all he needs to stay warm when the temperature drops. If your dog has a thin coat, especially if he is a delicate breed intended for warm weather such as the Italian Greyhound, provide him with outerwear for protection and limit him to short forays outside when it is really cold. A sweater vest is probably the best protection, since it holds in the dog’s natural body heat, layered with a jacket on top. A strong energetic Labrador can still suffer from prolonged exposure to extremely cold temperatures. The longer a dog stays outside when it’s freezing, the more risk he runs of developing hypothermia, which is a dangerous drop in the dog’s core body temperature.
Hypothermia: Signs Of Danger
A dog whose core temperature has gone down will shiver violently in a rapid attempt to speed up his metabolism to generate warmth – it’s a sign of a serious drop in body temperature. If your dog displays any of these symptoms, bring him inside to a warm environment immediately.
- Intense and prolonged shivering.
- Weakness or lethargy—especially if the dog is normally active.
- Disorientation or confusion—not responding to commands, walking in circles.
- Loss of interest in playing or even walking, lifting paws one at a time.
What To Do In Case Of Severe Chilling
Heat Him Up: Throw some towels and other blankets in the dryer on high, where they will heat up quickly. Get your dog to the warmest room you have, crank up the thermostat and wrap him in the warm towels.
Stay With Him: Don’t leave your dog’s side until he stops shivering. Once he is rewarmed, encourage him to eat and drink, which will generate more warmth and replenish the energy he expended while shivering.
Get to the Vet or ER Hospital: If he does not improve, or the shivering gets worse, wrap up your dog in layers of towels and blankets, preheat the car, and get him to the vet on an emergency basis. Call ahead to let the doctors know you are on your way and why – so they can be prepared with what they need to do to stabilize him.
Tracie Hotchner is a nationally acclaimed pet wellness advocate, who wrote THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. She is recognized as the premiere voice for pets and their people on pet talk radio. She continues to produce and host her own Gracie® Award winning NPR show DOG TALK® (and Kitties, Too!) from Peconic Public Broadcasting in the Hamptons after 9 consecutive years and over 500 shows. She produced and hosted her own live, call-in show CAT CHAT® on the Martha Stewart channel of Sirius/XM for over 7 years until the channel was canceled, when Tracie created her own Radio Pet Lady Network where she produces and co-hosts CAT CHAT® along with 10 other pet talk radio podcasts with top veterinarians and pet experts.
Tracie also is the Founder and Director of the annual NY Dog Film Festival, a philanthropic celebration of the love between dogs and their people. Short canine-themed documentary, animated and narrative films from around the world create a shared audience experience that inspires, educates and entertains. With a New York City premiere every October, the Festival then travels around the country, partnering in each location with an outstanding animal welfare organization that brings adoptable dogs to the theater and receives half the proceeds of the ticket sales. Halo was a Founding Sponsor in 2015 and donated 10,000 meals to the beneficiary shelters in every destination around the country in 2016.
Tracie lives in Bennington, Vermont – where the Radio Pet Lady Network studio is based – and where her 12 acres are well-used by her 2-girl pack of lovely, lively rescued Weimaraners, Maisie and Wanda.