Do German Shepherds get cold?
This is a question that personally interests me as I do own a German Shepherd and I want to make sure he is comfortable and gets the best possible care.
So I decided to do a lot of digging to figure this out.
In short, German shepherds do feel cold, but they are able to tolerate lower temperatures than most dogs because of their double-coat fur, high muscle mass, and low surface area-to-volume ratio.
If you stick with me, we will explore in more detail how German shepherds can withstand the cold, I will also talk about their temperature tolerance limit and also provide some tips on how to keep your German shepherd warm during the colder months.
You are still here?
Here we go.
How German Shepherds handle cold temperatures
German shepherds have certain natural advantages that allow them to stay warmer than many other dogs in cold weather.
Let’s get into them.
The Double coat fur
One of the main reasons why German shepherds can tolerate colder temperatures is because of their double-coat fur.
The outer layer is made up of coarse, thick hairs that protect against the elements and the inner layer is made up of softer, thinner hairs that provide insulation.
German shepherds with thicker coats will generally be able to tolerate lower temperatures better than those with thinner coats.
Their coats do such a great job that it is not necessary to provide your pooch with clothing like doggy sweaters.
Another important factor in keeping German shepherds warm in cold weather is keeping their fur well-groomed.
Regular brushing will help remove any dead or matted hair, which can not only make your dog uncomfortable but also prevent its coat from doing its job properly.
So, if you’re planning on taking your German shepherd out in cold weather, make sure to give them a good brush first!
Lastly, ensure to thoroughly dry your dog after bathing him in the winter to prevent water from freezing in his fur which can cause frostbite or hyperthermia.
High muscle mass
Another reason why German shepherds can handle colder temperatures is that they have a high muscle mass.
This means that they generate more body heat than dogs with less muscle mass.
This is why you often see German shepherds working in jobs that require them to be outdoors in colder weather, such as search and rescue or law enforcement.
Low surface area-to-volume ratio.
Another factor that allows German shepherds to withstand cold weather is their low surface area-to-volume ratio.
This means that they have a relatively small amount of skin exposed for their size, which helps prevent heat loss.
In comparison, dogs with a high surface area-to-volume ratio, like small dogs, are more susceptible to losing heat.
The combination of these factors makes German shepherds less likely to feel the cold as much as other dog breeds.
What temperature is too cold for a German Shepherd?
While German shepherds are able to tolerate colder temperatures than most dogs, there is a point where the cold can become too much for them.
The general rule of thumb is that if the temperature outside is too cold for you, then it’s probably too cold for your German shepherd as well.
With that said, a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.44 degrees Celsius), should be the temperature limit.
Yes, they can handle even lower temperatures but it is best to keep them inside at this point just to be safe.
Any temperature below 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6.66 degrees Celsius) is dangerous and can lead to hypothermia or frostbite.
There are a few things to look out for when considering if your German shepherd is feeling too cold.
First, pay attention to your dog’s body language. If they seem uncomfortable or are trying to go back inside, it’s probably time to head home.
Second, keep an eye on their paw pads. If they start to crack or bleed, this is a sign that the cold is too much for them.
Lastly, watch out for signs of hypothermia, such as shivering, lethargy, or difficulty breathing. If you notice any of these symptoms, get your dog inside and warm them up slowly.
How to keep your German shepherd warm in cold weather
There are a few things you can do to make sure your German shepherd stays warm in cold weather.
- Try to keep your dog indoors as much as possible: The first and most obvious solution is to keep your dog indoors. This is the best way to ensure that your dog stays warm, especially if the temperature outside is below freezing.
- Give your dog plenty of food: Another way to help your German shepherd stay warm is by increasing their food intake. This will help them generate more body heat.
- Give your dog a good brush: As I said earlier, regular brushing will help remove any dead or matted hair, which can not only make your dog uncomfortable but also prevent its coat from doing its job properly. Well brushed fur will trap more warmth for the dog.
- Ensure your dog has proper warm bedding: Just like us, dogs need a warm and comfortable place to sleep. Be sure to provide your German shepherd with a thicker blanket to snuggle up in. Also, try to raise the bed off the floor as the floor is usually cold in the winter.
- Protect your dog’s paws: During cold weather, dog paws are susceptible to frostbite. Be sure to wipe your dog’s paws after every walk to remove any salt, ice, or snow. Consider investing in a pair of booties or paw wax and balm to keep their paws extra warm and protected. If your German Shepherd has particularly longer fur, ensure to trim it around the paws as this fur normally soaks up water and therefore increases the likely hood of hypothermia.
- Provide fresh water: It’s important to provide your German shepherd with unfrozen fresh water at all times, but especially in the winter. This is because they tend to drink less water when it’s cold out. Dehydration can lead to a whole host of health problems, so be sure that they always have access to clean water.
- Bathe your GSD using warm water: Contrary to popular belief, it is fine to bathe your dog during the winter. When bathing your dog in the winter, just ensure to do it indoors, use comfortably warm water, and mild dog shampoo to prevent your dog’s skin from drying out.
- Dog Clothing: As I said earlier, GSDs do not need clothes to keep them warm. However, if the temperatures get too extreme you might consider getting a doggy sweater or coat. You should also consider doggie clothes if your German shepherd is a senior dog.
Factors that affect your German Shepherds’ Tolerance to low temperatures
The degree to which German shepherds are able to cope with low temperatures depends on various factors.
The Age of your dog.
Puppies have a harder time regulating their body temperature and are more susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite because they have less muscle mass and a higher surface area-to-volume ratio. They therefore will tend to generate less body heat and also get cold quicker than larger dogs. Puppies also generally have shorter fur leading to less insulation.
When it comes to senior German shepherds, their fur is not as thick as it once was, which means that they don’t have the same level of insulation against the cold weather. Also, their metabolism has slowed down over the years, in addition to their loss of muscle mass leading to less heat generated by their bodies.
Health condition of your dog.
If your dog is unwell, taking him outside is not a good idea as their body might be having a hard time regulating its temperature.
This could be because in sickness (depending on the type of sickness) dogs tend to lose fat, muscle mass, and fur which help keep the dog warm.
The thickness of the fur
Not all GSDs are equal.
Some GSDs have thicker coats than others. Those with thicker coats will tend to feel warmer than those without.
Please keep in mind, however, that dogs with thicker coats tend to trap more dampness in their fur, and therefore you should put in extra effort to ensure that they are completely dry after they come from outside.
Your dog’s activity level
The more active your dog is, the more heat its body will generate, and the easier it will be for it to regulate its temperature. So, a dog who is constantly running around and playing will be able to tolerate colder temperatures better than a sedentary dog.
Things to consider when walking your German Shepherd in cold weather
As a German Shepherd owner, you should be aware of the things to consider when walking your dog in cold weather. Here are some tips:
- Check the weather conditions before taking your GSD out for a walk. Avoid walks during extreme weather conditions.
- Always keep your dog on a leash and also ensure he is wearing a collar with identification tags. This is because snow usually masks scents and so in case your dog was to get lost, he would find it hard to get back home on his own.
- Wipe your dog’s paws after every walk to remove any salt, ice, antifreeze, or snow that might be stuck on them.
- Check for any cracks or cuts on your dog’s paws and apply a pet-safe balm if necessary.
- Opt for dog boots if the weather is extremely cold.
So, do german shepherds get cold outside? (the summary)
In general, German shepherds do get cold but nature has equipped them well enough to cope with low temperatures.
However, be careful not to expose him to extreme coldness as this can lead to hypothermia and frostbite.
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