Can Dogs Get Sick From Cold Weather?

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The seasons change, leaves fall, the temperature drops and your nose starts to run. It's no surprise that cold weather has been proven to increase your chances of getting sick. Your nose’s defense cells are weakened when the thermometer is in the blue zone. This makes you susceptible to more viruses. In addition to the common cold, frigid weather can also cause hypothermia and frostbite, both of which can be life threatening! But what about dogs? They spend lots of time outdoors when the weather turns. Can they get sick from lower temps too?

Can Dogs Get Sick From Cold Weather?

YES!

Cold weather causes problems for dogs just as it does for their owners. Pooches rely on their respiratory system to stay warm. When the air is icy, their bronchial tube can constrict, which can turn a normal infection into pneumonia! All but the furriest of four-legged friends can get frostbite on their paws or ears, and any pupper can succumb to hypothermia if the conditions are bad enough. It's good to remember this when letting your dog out to play in the winter months. This is especially the case for pups with short fur, short legs or both!

Does My Dog Have a Sickness Caused by Cold Weather?

If there is snow on the ground and your dog seems out of sorts, the two could be related. To figure out if your pooch is suffering from a cold-weather illness, take a look at these common signs.


Symptoms
Regular cold symptoms like a runny nose or a lowered appetite will likely show, but aren't a big worry in themselves. A prolonged fever is a much more troubling sign, and usually indicates that the illness is serious. Signs of frostbite can take days to show up, long after tissue damage has been done. Hypothermia starts off as weakness and shivering, but can progress into total stiffness and, eventually, a complete shutdown of the body.

Causes
Obviously, the cause of cold-related illnesses is the cold. Being exposed to super-low temperatures over a long period of time is hard on the body, especially if you're a warm-blooded mammal!

Diagnosis
If you think that your dog has come down with a cold, been bitten by mother nature's frost, or developed hypothermia, take him to your vet! The vet can run tests to confirm if a virus is present. If your dog has frostbite or hypothermia, quick veterinary action can save your pup, and maybe even all of his body parts too!

For more info on how the cold affects dogs check out: Low Body Temperature in Dogs.

How Do I Treat My Dog's Cold Weather-Related Sickness?

There are things you can do to lessen the impact of health problems due to frosty weather. Getting help from your vet is the best way to combat any serious illness in your pup.

For serious respiratory tract infections, basic support like IV fluids and immune boosting supplements can make a real difference. Pooches with frostbite or hypothermia need to be warmed up quickly, but also gently. Warm water can dissolve ice crystals in tissue, while blankets can help raise your dog's internal temps.


Most infections get past the serious stage in a few days. Frostbite can result in the loss of ear chunks, or even a limb, though. Serious hypothermia cases can be fatal, but if the dog warms up in time, the worst of the issue is over.

To ask a real vet about the effects of low temperatures on dogs, head over to Low Body Temperature in Dogs.

How Does Cold Weather Affect Dogs and Humans Similarly?

Cold weather causes problems for those of us without substantial blubber. Common issues include:

  • Weakened nasal and respiratory defenses

  • Frozen external tissue from blood retreating to the organs

  • Slowed breathing and heart rate

  • Eventual death

How Does Cold Weather Affect Dogs and Humans Differently?

As with most things, our fur-babies make us look like wimps when it comes to dealing with the cold. Notable differences are:

  • Dogs have fur, so even short haired breeds do better outside than humans

  • Dogs conserve heat through their feet and their lungs, so bundling up doesn't help them much

  • A person's weak point in the cold is their nose, while for dogs it's their bronchial tube

Case Study

It's important to remember that weather can change quickly, especially if you tend to leave your dog outside during the day. One poor poochie was accidentally left out during a snowstorm. His owners returned to find him shivering and starting to seize up. They quickly set him on a thermal pad, covered him in blankets and put on a warm fire. Thankfully, because they caught on fast, they were able to save their beloved canine.