Some of the things that come to our mind when we think about Labradors are cold waters, ice and snow.
This is one of the reasons why many people take it for granted and consider allowing their Labradors outdoors even during cold temperatures. But leaving their Labs outside bother them a little as they get this question in their mind. Do Labs get cold? Can my Lab resist the outside cold weather?
As winter approaches, I hear a few common questions from Lab owners like, Do Labradors get cold? How cold is too cold for labs? This article below answers all your questions and covers all the aspects related to Labs and cold weather.
Do Labs get cold?
Before giving you the answer, it is necessary for you to have an understanding of the climatic conditions that are suitable for Labradors. This allows you to find out the temperature and climate tolerance of your Labrador.
History of Labs in cold weather
If you see the history of the Labrador retriever breed, they belong to the Newfoundland of Canada. In Canada, if you notice the climatic conditions, it is known to be cold and icy near the waters. The temperatures would go lower than 0 degrees (32F) and sometimes drop down to very low points.
In those cold and harsh climates, the ancestors of our modern-day Labradors were bred to assist the fishermen. They were used to retrieve the nets and fish from the cold and icy waters of the North Atlantic.
Hence genetically they have great resistant to cold temperatures and cold waters. But how come the breed is so resistant to cold temperatures?
The Labrador double coat
When you have a Labrador, you notice its messy fur all over the house. Even though it seems a bit messy to have the fur all over the floor and furniture, the coat on your Labrador has a purpose. It is a special coat and is called the Labrador double coat.
It consists of two layers, one is the guard coat or outer coat, and the coat underneath is called the undercoat. The outer coat tends to be a bit abrasive, whereas the undercoat is denser and softer to touch.
As the genetics of a Labrador is closely related to cold temperatures and colder waters, nature has provided this coat as a natural protective barrier.
The outer coat repels water and ice. It acts as a barrier to the dog’s skin. The thick and dense undercoat plays an important role in protecting the Lab from rapid temperature changes. It keeps him warmer when the climate is too cold and it keeps him cooler when the climate is too hot. Thus the coat functions as a natural body temperature regulator by keeping your Labrador warmer during cold weather.
But does this mean, your Labrador can be left outside during cold weather?
Factors that affect Labrador retriever cold weather tolerance
Just like humans, every Labrador is not the same. Each Labrador will react to the cold weather in different ways and this depends upon various factors. Hence some Labs can definitely get cold.
For example, my dog Bruno has very little fur on his belly. Now you cannot compare my dog with a Labrador with thickly grown fur. Hence some dogs might stay comfortable during cold nights, whereas some dogs might not be comfortable.
You cannot just take outside temperature into consideration to determine if the weather is cold for your Labrador. There are certainly other factors that can affect your Labrador temperature tolerance.
1. Wind flow
Even though your Lab is able to tolerate the cold temperature outside, a cold brisk breeze can make your dog vulnerable to cold.
Hence even if the temperature outside is bearable by your dog, it is important to consider the wind flow while leaving your dog outside.
2. Cloud cover
The cloud cover can impact the overall coldness, especially during night time. If the sky is clear, the heat emitted from the earth’s surface escapes easily into space and make the night colder. Whereas a cloudy night may keep the night temperature a bit warmer for your dog.
3. The wetness of the dog
If your Lab has just finished its swim or if it is still damp or else if there is any kind of wet snowfall outside, these conditions can chill your dog if its fur stays damp.
Even if the temperatures outside are not too low, any kind of dampness might cause severe chill for your dog.
4. Age of the dog
Age of your Lab is another important factor to consider if you want to leave your dog outside. Suppose a healthy adult Labrador might manage to stay comfortable in the outside cold weather.
But what about puppies? and what about senior Labradors? They are too vulnerable to cold temperatures as they cannot regulate their body temperatures efficiently like the healthy adult ones. Hence a young puppy and an old Labrador should never be left outside during cold nights.
5. Weight of the dog
Weight and overall fat of a Labrador is another factor that can influence the vulnerability of it to cold. For example, Labradors which are slightly fat and overweight tend to stay comfortable in colder temperatures than the skinny ones.
This is because, fat acts as an excellent insulator against cold. Some dogs which are thin and skinny are even susceptible to hypothermia. Hence it is important to bring your Lab inside if it is a skinny one.
6. Habituation to cold
If your Lab is used to stay in cold weathers, it can withstand cold temperatures in a better way. A Lab which is habituated to stay and roam outside could tolerate colder temperatures more efficiently than the Lab that always stays indoor.
If you consider a Lab spending lots of time just on a couch, they get cold much quicker than working dogs which are habituated activities like swimming all round the year.
7. Health condition of the dog
A Lab which is either sick or suffering from any health conditions should not be left outside during cold winters. Make sure your Lab has had a recent checkup with your veterinarian if you want to leave it outdoors.
The colder weather can aggravate certain health conditions such as muscle myopathy and arthritis in your Labrador. Labradors with health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease can also suffer from difficulties in regulating their body temperature during cold weather.
Labs suffering from arthritis and other muscular disorders might suffer from more pain and discomfort during cold weather.
Find out if your Labrador is feeling cold
As your dog cannot say that it is feeling cold, as a responsible dog owner, it is essential to observe your dog’s behaviour and symptoms.
Everyone knows that a dog starts panting with its tongue out when it feels hot. But what if it feels cold?
My Lab curls up tightly like a little ball and it is an indication that it is feeling cold. Some dogs prefer not to sleep on the tiles when it is too cold. They search for a sofa or a bed to sleep. Dogs also keep their mouths shut and start shivering when they feel cold. You might observe this in Labs after a cold water swim.
If you have noticed these symptoms in your Lab, they are an indication that you need to provide some warmth for your little one.
How cold is too cold for Labs?
Some people believe that a dog can withstand cold because it has fur. Actually the coat can help when it is cold outside, but it can’t offer much protection when it is really too cold. So how can we determine whether the cold outside is too cold for your Labrador? How cold can Labradors tolerate?
Most of the veterinarians suggest stopping leaving the dogs outdoors when the temperatures fall below 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6.7 Celcius). But we know that various factors can affect the dog and make him too cold, even if the temperature outside is 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
I have heard of a dog that stayed outside at 20Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, even the 20 degrees temperature with a chilly wind caused frostbites to him.
Your dog might be capable enough to survive low temperatures. But that does not mean you should push him to that extent. The thing which you need to consider is whether your dog is comfortable or not, but not its survival capacity.
Hence instead of taking the risk till the temperature drops till 20 degrees Fahrenheit, you should take a better edge and take care as soon as the temperature drops below 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tips to take care of your Labrador in cold weather
Labradors can surely tolerate cold temperatures, but if it is too cold outside or if you want to make him more comfortable. You must follow certain tips.
As a responsible owner, you should follow these tips to avoid discomfort for your loving Labrador.
1. Food and water
Do you know that shivering is a process to generate heat when the surroundings are cold? When you shiver, your body utilizes more calories in order to produce heat. Similarly in case of your dog too, when the temperature is cold outside, it uses more calories in order to keep itself warm.
Hence whenever it is cold outside, you need to add some extra food to your dog’s bowl. More food means more fat and this extra fat will be used to maintain the body heat. Hence remember to add extra fat to your dog during the cold winter season.
You should provide him with fresh water all the time. Make sure that the provided water is not frozen due to the extreme temperatures.
2. Insulated dog kennels
If your Labrador stays outside, one of the most important things you should provide him is an insulated kennel or dog house. Make sure that you do not neglect to provide this kennel to your dog. A right kennel will keep your dog warm and comfortable during the cold winters.
This doesn’t mean you can keep your dog in its kennel during extreme cold. Whenever the temperature and weather conditions seem freezing, bring home your dog immediately.
When you choose a dog house make sure that the kennel has a proper flap to protect your dog from cold winds. It should also have a proper surface and enough space for your dog to sleep comfortably.
3. Protection from floor
Can your Lab sleep comfortably on a hard cold surface? Definitely not. Hence placing a thick cloth or a warm bed on the ground will make your dog comfortable.
My naughty Lab chews away if i place any cloth on the floor, instead of sleeping on it. If your dog is similar to my naughty Lab, you can provide an Insulated mat for sleeping on it. This mat will avoid the loss of body heat through ground contact.
A significant amount of heat lost through your dog’s body if it is in contact with the floor. Hence you can avoid this using an insulated mat.
4. Protection while outdoors
During Christmas, the temperatures drop very low in some areas. Sometimes these low temperatures are also accompanied by chill winds. During such weather conditions, it is better to reduce the outside exposure for your dog.
If it is necessary to go outside, it is better to provide your Lab with a dog sweater or a neoprene hunting vest for more protection.
5. Exercise your Lab
When it is cold and snowy outside, it is common to feel lazy for an exercise session. But exercise is essential for your Lab even in winters. A moderate amount of activity for your Lab, helps him to generate enough amount of heat to keep itself warm.
Have you seen Labradors in the snow? They love playing in the snow. Hence you can allow your dog to play which even a form of exercise for your Lab.
If the weather is too harsh for taking him outside, you can play a ball game with him or you can allow him for a little activity inside the house itself.
Do Labs need winter coats?
As soon as winters approach you always carry your sweaters and jackets along with you. But what about your doggy friends? Looking at the cold weather outside, you may get this doubt. Does my Labrador need a coat in winter?
Actually, not all Labradors need a coat or sweater to keep themselves warm in winters. But what if the Lab has less fur? What if the Lab has some health conditions that make winters worse? What if the Lab has prolonged exposure to cold and if the weather is extremely cold outside?
In these kinds of situations, a warm coat comes as a rescue for your Labrador. It is essential to use a winter coat for your dog if the temperatures outside are below zero and if the weather is wet and chilly.
Some Labs do not have an equal amount of thick fur all over their body. Some of them do not have much hair on their stomachs and it gets exposed to cold weather. My Lab has little fur on his stomach and armpits. In such cases, it is essential to cover your dog’s belly and other areas.
Your dog might suffer from cold after a cold water swim, hence it is advisable to use a fleece coat especially in winters. These kinds of winter coats can protect your dog from conditions like frostbite. They are also helpful in keeping the hips and joints warm as cold temperatures can cause painful joints in conditions like arthritis.
You can use a coat like equafleece when your dog is spending more time outdoors. Use a neoprene vest during activities like swimming.
Along with these winter coats, you can gear up your Lab with some dog booties to protect its paws. During winters, some city areas like sidewalks are covered with salt and chemicals. As these salts and chemicals are quite toxic for your dog, provide some dog booties for protecting your dog’s paws. Or else you can apply mushers secret to your dog’s paws for its protection.
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