Baby, it’s cold outside
Posted in Chiropractic Treatments for Dogs

The nights have drawn in, the heating is on, and at around 10 pm (ish), we take our dogs for that last comfort break in the garden or quickly down the road. Biscuit time into their beds, (or your bed, but that’s another blog post altogether)), lights off, heating off and into bed we humans go.

Now I wouldn’t for one second dream of wanting to know what you wear to bed, that quite frankly is TMI for a dog blog, but I would bet my house slippers, you snuggle down under a duvet? Now hand’s up who has an electric blanket? Or are you old school with a hot water bottle in a fleecy sleeve, and who’s popped on a pair of bed socks? Are you nice and toasty warm?

A dog’s thermoregulation, or body temperature regulation is controlled by the hypothalamus in the brain, just like us. We are both endoderm’s, which means dog’s generate their own body heat internally. In a mature, healthy adult dog, the ability to regulate their body temperature is pretty efficient. The generated warm air radiates from the skin and gets trapped in the dog’s furry coat. Ah you ask….so the dog’s furry coat is equivalent to our snuggly duvet?

Well yes, if you are a dog in really good health, with a super thick double coat that creates a lot of insulation. Thermoregulation is a very efficient system, and a Siberian Huskie, with a seriously thick undercoat and harsh top coat, is perfectly suited to minus 30 degrees. A Huskies undercoat will trap the warmth created by the body and keep it there, the rougher top coat creates a barrier which keeps the heat in, which is why snow doesn’t melt on their coats. Pretty clever how 1000’s of years of genetic evolution flexes its muscles correctly. The snuggle method of course works well, puppies in a litter with snuggle up together, or your 2 adult dogs may snuggle into one bed on a cold night. My cat can often be found snuggled into big Benji’s floof for warmth.

However, fine skinned, and single coated dogs, like a whippet or a greyhound, a Chinese Crested (ahem naked!!), and a smooth coat Jack Russell (we’ve all heard of the terrier shakes), won’t be so able to maintain their body temperature in an environment which isn’t temperoneutral, (think room temperature). We also need to put dogs who have been for s seriously short back and sides at the groomers into this category too. Puppies and senior dogs or dogs coping with a chronic health condition will also struggle to thermoregulate to optimal levels.

When the ambient temperature drops, for example at night in your kitchen when the heating clicks off at bed time, and your dog isn’t blessed with their very own fluffy duvet of fur, or if they are fragile, old, poorly or very young, they will get cold, and unfortunately they will not be able to generate enough energy in their bodies to raise their body temperature, in extreme cases this can lead to hypothermia which is life threatening, in your kitchen it’s more likely to lead to a failure of your dog to thrive, maintain weight and cope with disease.

I have had many clients report that their elderly dog has been shivering in the morning, or their puppy isn’t sleeping through the night in the dead of winter. If all other considerations have been ruled out, then in my experience the simple explanation is that your dog is cold. The shivering is the bodies way of trying to create enough energy to maintain their body temperature.

The solution? Well there are a few; you could of course have your dog in bed with you and your dog could share your body heat and use your duvet as insulation, but that isn’t for everyone. You could keep the heating on all night, but oooh cost of living crisis. A little electric radiator near to their beds is a good option, (I used to do this in my daughter’s nursery when she was tiny), make sure the temperature isn’t so high it could cause scolding if your dog lies against it. Keeping out drafts, and placing dog beds away from doorways and windows will also help. If your dog’s bed is on a hard floor, think about popping a bit of carpet underneath for insulation, some dog’s like to be tucked in under a blanket but my two don’t. Igloo beds are useful and many sighthounds love them.

One of the best solutions for chilly nights is a little fleecy dog suit, there are masses on the market, you can enjoy your own google search.  The key to correctly fitting bedtime apparel, is  to make sure the length of your dog’s back is covered, and their tummy, (these are the largest surface areas. Keeping your dog’s loins warm especially around the kidney area is helpful, and if your dog suffers with elbow or hip arthritis, then ensuring these joints are covered will be so appreciated come morning when stiff joints make movement difficult.

Now don’t be silly and put pj’s on a puppy that is likely to get themselves stuck in it, or if your dog is hugely touch sensitive. In other words,  be dog centred in your decision making. But with safety and welfare considerations checked off, you should be good to go shopping.


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