Do dogs suffer from the cold and need a coat?

The mercury never stops hiding at the bottom of the thermometer. And this Saturday morning, with up to -14°C when you wake up in Grand-Est, -7°C in Aurillac, -1°C in Montpellier or even -3°C in the capital, the morning walk promises to be cool for dogs and their masters, many of whom will employ the onion technique to prevent suffocation.

But what about their doggies? Can they rely on their fur alone to protect them from freezing temperatures? Are they sensitive to cold, do they suffer from it? Should we collect them or adjust their diet?

Not all dogs are equal when it comes to the cold

Can a dog already be cold? “Like us, they are homeothermic creatures: they have to maintain their body temperature at 38°C (compared to 37°C for us), so they lose heat when exposed to extreme cold,” replies Géraldine Blanchard, veterinarian specializing in animal clinical nutrition and founder of the nutrition advice site Cuisine à crocs.

But not all dogs are equal when it comes to the cold. “There are breeds that are better adapted, thanks to a thick undercoat which helps to keep the body warm, and a small layer of fat as well, which thus better resists the drop in temperature,” explains the vet. Like Labradors, all retrievers, Newfoundlands, Huskies or even Malamutes. Dogs adapted to the cold, therefore, but also more susceptible to obesity, with caloric needs in normal times lower by about 20% than the average dog.

On the other hand, there are four-legged friends who are more sensitive to the cold: this is the case with the little short-haired Chihuahuas, who can often be seen shivering. But also “dogs adapted for racing, therefore lighter, naturally very fine or even a little thin,” continues Dr. Blanchard. Like greyhounds or some hunting dogs like those of the pointer breed. Because of their constitution, they have higher than average caloric needs.

Food adapted to temperatures

But when it starts to get very cold, “there is a temperature effect for every dog, regardless of its category and its resistance, which sees its need for calories increase because its consumption increases to maintain a stable body temperature, explains the vet. This is especially true when the dog spends the day outside. For people who often practice outdoor physical activity with their dog, it is thus possible to continue taking him on condition of adapting his diet, prescribes Géraldine Blanchard. Initially we will look at his dog, possibly weigh him and make sure he is not losing weight. If we see that his ribs are more obvious, then we increase his daily ration a little, by 5 to 10%, no more. Above all, it is not a question of doubling the portions”.

And for people who make their dog “exert a lot more, do an activity with whole days spent outside, then it is necessary to switch to a richer and fatty diet to compensate for this period of intense effort, the vet recommends. .And if we have dogs that live outside in the mountains, in this case we not only increase the ration, but we adapt it: it must be richer in fat”.

A bit like us with the call of raclette in the mountains. A call that is also felt in the city. But it doesn’t always fulfill a need. Neither for us nor our doggies. “Even with the current temperatures, a dog that goes outside two to three times for 15 minutes a day does not need a fuller bowl, warns the vet. Especially since when it is very cold, the owners tend to shorten the walk duration.

Dress warmly

Except that, like us or almost, “dogs really need to go outside, insists Dr. Blanchard. So if he is sensitive to cold, thin and short-haired, instead of shortening the time outside, we can put a little coat on him. It will be an isothermal layer that will prevent it from losing too much heat”. And in recent days, masters and mistresses have stormed the specialty stores. What Manon confirms: In her Parisian store in the Marais, she collects a lot of coats. “Demand has exploded since the start of the cold, we sell a lot of them, as well as neck warmers”. Popular accessories “especially for dressing small dogs, their masters are really afraid that they will suffer”.

“We also have a lot of customers who walk in the mountains this winter and ask us for slippers to protect their paws,” adds the young woman. “If you go for long walks in the snow, if the dog makes prolonged efforts in the cold, it is indicated to put small adapted slippers on him,” affirms Dr. Blanchard. But for city dwellers it is not necessary for the daily walk on the pavements”.

On the other hand, with or without slippers, “on the way back from a walk, it is important to dry the paws of your animal: the cold and the salt can damage them, the pads must not remain wet, nor does it not retain moisture and salt stuck between the fingers, emphasizes the vet. You can even rinse your dog’s paws with clean water before drying them”. But luckily for everyone, temperatures are expected to rise again on Sunday.

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