Whether it is one of winter's coldest days or you are simply thinking ahead, it is literally vital to know how to keep puppies warm.
Generally, after two months of age, pups will handle changes in temperature rather well. But from birth onwards for a handful of weeks, it is the dog owner or dog breeder's job to keep the young puppies warm enough. Generally, this gets achieved by insulation of the room the dogs are in, or by using an external heat source, e.g. dog house heater, heat lamps.
How To Tell If a Puppy Is Too Cold?
Dogs, and puppies even more, cannot inform us about how warm they feel. They can send us signals that they are seeking either to cool down or to warm up. Some of the signs helping you guess whether or not your dog or puppy is cold mainly include touching them and observing them.
Feeling The Dog's Ears
The quickest and easiest way to tell if a dog is too cold is by feeling their ears. If your dog's ears are cold to the touch, it it important to find a quick solution to warm your dog up. Obviously, if it is winter and your puppy was just playing outside, ears will be cold, so make use of common sense.
For example, if the last outside walk was over half an hour ago and your dog's ears are feeling cold, especially around the edge, it's clear that your pooch is a little chilly.
Curling Up and Lethargy
Many puppies and dogs lay down and curl up in an attempt to warm themselves up however they can. The tail is generally tucked in. They will look at you without tilting their head, just their eyes balls will move. Many dogs tend to adopt this position regardless of the weather — it's a canine's favorite! Here again, you must use common sense and understand your pup's behavior in the right context.
Now, if your puppy is sleeping a lot more than usual and constantly tries to come near your feet, or curls up, it could mean that they indeed are seeking warmth.
This is the most obvious sign but also the one you should not wait to witness to take action!
Dogs pretty much never tremble or shiver so when they do, it has to be taken extremely seriously. If you see your puppy trembling and moving slowly, it could be a sign of illness or simply that they are feeling super frozen right then. Make sure you provide them instant warmth with a hug and a fleece throw.
Remember that it may be totally normal to feel a little chilly at times, but it's never fine for a dog to tremble or shiver. Ever.
Slow Breathing and Slow Moving
When a dog or puppy becomes too cold, their blood flow slows down and muscles stiffen. The reason why these two processes happen is that the water in both blood and muscles thickens due to the very cold temperature. This is when hypothermia kicks in. If you notice your puppy is moving a lot slower than usual or seems to limp, it's time to immediately warm him up.
Slow breathing is also an observable sign of a puppy getting too cold. The more a puppy breathes in, the more cold air it inhales. Plus, if the body temperature is already low, the movements needed to breathe are harder than normal.
Very rare, whining or whimpering may be signs of your puppy telling you about how uncomfortable they feel. Pups are discovering life and its ordeals, so such behaviors can be caused by many things from subzero cold weather to increased appetite. Similar to parents and babies, you've got to use an elimination process when your pup starts crying.
Best Ways To Keep Puppies Warm
Ideally, as a responsible dog owner or breeder, you do want to keep your dogs warm and prevent the apparition of any of the abovementioned signs of coldness. It's actually easy and very cheap so let's dive into it.
p.s. hugs and cuddles are an obvious way to keep a dog warm but let's remove yourself from the perfect solution.
Dog Heating Pads
An easy and cost-effective way to warm a puppy up is through the use of dog heating pads. These are small little plate-sized warmers that can be heated up in a microwave, electrically or even self-heated, and placed in your dog's bed. They can emit a soothing warmth for hours to come.
Depending on how low the temperature is, you will go for the following heating pads:
- thermal self-heating pads are ideal to soothe a slightly chilled dog
- microwaveable heating pads are best for slightly drops of temperature
- electric heating pads are the hottest option and are great for subzero temperatures
Let's be honest for a minute: self-heating pad could easily be replaced with a super cheap fleece throw, so no need for that for now. Indeed, people usually go for an electric heating pad or a microwaveable heating pad which works for hours while totally removing any electrical hazard. The microwaved version of dog heating beds seems to disappear on e-commerce websites which leads me to believe that they perhaps are unsafe.
Dog House Heaters
If you are in the middle or right before a very harsh winter, then you need a dog house heater (i.e. kennel heater.) Pads are great are insufficient in situations where the cold weather is extreme. Some dogs will also call for a dog house heater, including:
- nursing or pregnant bitches
- very young puppies
- senior dogs
- sick pets
(Basically, any dog that is on the fragile side, by nature.)
Warming up a dog inside a whelping box or dog kennel starts with insulated walls in an indoor or outdoor spot that is as excluded from cold air streams as possible. Avoid windows and doors whenever possible. Prefer quiet rooms with very little movements.
Warm Chicken Broth
The cheapest way to keep a dog warm is to feed them a delicious warm chicken broth. Ingredients required are super simple and usually available at home already:
- Deboned chicken (any parts)
- Potatoes and carrots
Never add any salt, pepper, or spice. Leave it as is. Put everything in a large stockpot and cover the ingredients with enough water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Leave it simmering for a couple of hours and add some extra water if required.
Once it's cooked through, keep the cooking water and make it is lukewarm before giving it to your dog. Yes, you can obviously leave the carrots, potatoes, and pieces of chicken inside.
Generally, dog owners will use a blanket or throw they have at home. In all honesty, it will work just fine as long as it is a thick or fleece one. Just add it on your dog's favorite lounging spot and it will add in comfort and warmth.
If you feel like buying a $10 super high-quality dog blanket, check out our recent review of the best dog blankets!
Insulated Dog Houses for Winter
Besides using add-ons and quick fixes, you may invest a couple of hundreds of dollars in a properly insulated dog house for winter. Even if you keep it at home or in a garage, this is an investment you will enjoy for the next few years. You can leave it open during the summer so it gets properly ventilated, and close it during the coldest days.
If you look online or on Amazon, there are only a couple of fully insulated winter dog houses. The best products are using Styrofoam and self-closing doors to completely protect the dog from the outside weather.
Effects of Cold Weather on Young Puppies
A puppy who becomes extremely cold might possibly suffer from hypothermia and frostbite; the two most dangerous conditions resulting from very low body temperature. In order to know for sure how cold a dog is, you must invest in an accurate dog thermometer.
The winter feeding schedule should be adapted to each puppy. Some puppies tend to move a lot less and therefore require fewer calories. Others still venture outdoors and burn many more calories than throughout the rest of the year they should be fed more!
Hypothermia is a medical condition that arises when the dog's body temperature drops below the norm of about 100 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on how low the dog's temperature is, it can be classified as:
- mild between 90 and 99 degrees F,
- moderate between 82 and 90 degrees F, or
- severe if less than 82 degrees F
Provided the dog's body temperature goes on decreasing further, the muscle tissues will stiffen and tighten. Inhaling and exhaling, together with heart rates will reduce drastically, potentially leading up to the sudden death of the puppy.
Call your vet immediately if your dog has milk hypothermia. Prepare a very simple yet tasty homemade soup to serve warm (without burning your dog.) Obviously, visit your vet urgently if your dog falls into moderate or severe hypothermia.
Dogs have wonderful coats that primarily serve as protection against cold weather and elements. Sometimes they trap air within their fur and the cold weather keeps on freezing the dog's skin. This may lead to reduced blood flow with ice forming on the affected area. Blisters will often appear soon after, as well as peeling skin.
Frostbite is rarely lethal but it can lead to irreparable skin damages. The few areas often affected by frostbite in dogs are all extremities including ears, tails, and paws. If your dog enjoys swimming, bathing in very cold water can also accelerate the formation of frostbite.