The Shetland Sheepdog is a very agile dog with a lively spirit and high vocal capacity. This is a beautiful and loyal dog to have. Originally, Shelties were raised as herding dogs to herd livestock in the Shetland Islands. Over time, they have been increasingly adopted as family dogs.
The Sheltie has impressive resistance to cold. It can survive fairly well outdoors in cold climates. This cold tolerance capacity can be attributed to their double coats. The top is rougher and longer, while the undercoat is softer and denser. This mechanism enhances its insulation in cold weather, but the Sheltie may struggle in extreme heat.
You may be curious about how well Shelties may survive in the cold. You may want to know what cold conditions would be too cold for them. What health risks is your Sheltie exposed to from extreme cold? Lastly, how can you exercise your Sheltie in the winter? Let us learn about all these.
Shetland Sheepdogs in the Cold
The Sheltie has two layers of coat. There is the undercoat, which is remarkably softer (keeping it warm to a considerable extent) and an upper coat, which is typically called the guard hairs. The upper coat reasonably ups the insulation of the Sheltie, keeping it warmer.
Equipped with this coat type, a typical Sheltie can withstand cold weather even up to the region of -60 degrees Fahrenheit. However, when the temperature falls below this, your Sheltie gets drastically susceptible to cold. Nonetheless, we don’t encourage you to leave your Sheltie out for too long in such acute cold weather. Outdoor exercises during extreme winter conditions should be limited.
If your Sheltie is going to spend substantial time outdoors in the cold, ensure that you make provision for a suitable dog house for it. In fact, this dog house should be insulated as well. Use hay as the bedding for your Sheltie house as blankets and fabrics would readily freeze.
Is My Shetland Sheepdog Weatherproof?
The coat of the Sheltie has a reasonable level of water repellency. The rougher upper coat can repel moisture and water fairly well.
How Cold is Too Cold for Your Shetland Sheepdog?
The Sheltie has a body optimized for the extreme weather of the Northern pole. This capacity is largely traced to the dense double coat layers. While a regular dog would struggle to stay outside when the temperatures fall to regions of 20 ºF, the Sheltie can survive outside in far colder environments.
However, when temperatures start falling below -51 degrees C, your Sheltie shouldn’t stay out too long in those weather conditions if not aided with weather-protective jackets.
Allowing your Sheltie to stay in such excessive condition for too long exposes it to conditions like frostbite and hypothermia.
Watch Out for Cold Warning Signs
Some signs are suggestive of your Sheltie being cold. Once they perpetually start to show these signs, your Sheltie should be promptly moved indoors from the cold.
Wouldn’t you like to learn about them?
When you notice your Sheltie looking stiff or limping
If your Sheltie is spending a significant amount of its time outdoor limping, all is not well. Such limping could be instigated by freezing paws.
At such points, you would see increased stiffness from your Sheltie. This obviously is because the cold is becoming overbearing for them. In other scenarios, your Sheltie’s posture could change.
It may change into hunched backs and tucked-in tails. This is a heat conservation tactic by the Sheltie.
Extreme howling, barking, and whining
If your Sheltie is cold, expect it to bark unnecessarily – without any tangible trigger. This may even be worsened by extreme whining and howling. This is a clear message that the cold is getting to it already.
Your Sheltie appears weaker
If your Sheltie is getting extremely cold, it could display sluggishness. More than appearing lethargic, your Sheltie may suffer slowed and shallow breathing and even drowsiness. Get it out of the cold at once.
How to Help Your Shetland Sheepdog When It’s Cold
One of the best ways to help your Sheltie when it is cold is to dress it up to keep it warmer. This helps them better regulate their body heat. There are several nice options for you to get it comfier when cold. You could wear it a sweater or any ready coat.
Your Sheltie must be fed with nourishing meals when the weather gets colder. Precisely, we recommend that you significantly increase the fat and protein content in its food.
More than that, you need to watch out for the paws of your Sheltie – especially those times you after walking in the snow. You have to factor in that snow, ice, and salt can pile up in your Sheltie’s paws.
This also includes other toxic substances like de-icers and antifreeze. Now there is the high risk of your Sheltie licking its paw and swallowing these poisonous substances. Antifreeze is notorious for its sweetness, yet it is exceedingly toxic. All this can wreak severe damage to the health of your dog.
You can save it from this hell by wiping its paw when you get indoors with a towel. Also, hair growth between the toes of your Sheltie can aid the accumulation of ice. You should trim this down.
What are Other Dangers from the Cold?
Several acute health risks come with your Sheltie staying outdoors for too long.
Your Sheltie could suffer hypothermia
When your Sheltie suffers hypothermia, its body temperature gets notably low. The risk of hypothermia is even accelerated when your Sheltie is already struggling with heart conditions.
The most prevalent symptoms of hypothermia include lethargy, shivering, depression, or overall weakness in your Sheltie.
That is, however, the mild dimension of hypothermia. If hypothermia gets severe, it could lead to more acute conditions like slowed heart rate and stiffer muscles.
What you should do in such circumstances is to wrap the Sheltie in a warm blanket and take it to your vet.
Your Sheltie could suffer frostbite
Frostbites are famously associated with icy conditions. Indeed, in such a situation, the Sheltie’s body draws blood to the center of the body from its farther body parts like paw and tail. This speeds up the formation of ice crystals in the tissues on those parts, consequently leading to tissue damage.
Frostbite has some early symptoms before the typical tissue deterioration proper. This includes conditions like a weak pulse, shivering, slowed breathing, lethargy, and even loss of consciousness.
In a situation where you notice some of the early symptoms of frostbite, you have to move your Sheltie into a warmer environment immediately.
Don’t make the mistake of massaging the frostbitten areas due to the overwhelming pains your Sheltie could feel. As your Sheltie warms up gradually, make sure to wrap the dog in a warm blanket and take it to your vet.
Exercise During the winter
With the winter hitting its fiercest, there wouldn’t be much of an opportunity to take your Shelties outdoors for your typical exercise. Yet, your Sheltie, given its lively nature, requires a lot of stimulation. What would you do?
Play games with your Sheltie
Shelties have an unusual appetite for games like hide and seek. This is a unique way of stimulating the Sheltie, both mentally and physically. You can hide your Sheltie’s favorite toy and get it going to find it.
Alternatively, you could have your Sheltie finding you when you deliberately hide away from it. Moving around will work your Sheltie, giving it the necessary exercise it needs without having to step outdoors.
You can exercise your Sheltie in a dog treadmill
There are customized treadmills for dogs that would be immensely beneficial for your Sheltie. If you can’t afford the dog-optimized treadmills, you can yet make do with exercising your Sheltie in a human treadmill.
If you go with the latter, you need to be more careful. First, you may need to familiarize your Sheltie with the workings of the human treadmill. Certainly, this could take a couple of days, say 3-4 days.
You may want to start at a slower speed, gradually ramping it up when it is catching up. To motivate your Sheltie, you could stand in front of the treadmill with a treat to get it moving to you.
Caring for Shetland Sheepdogs in the Cold
As we earlier pointed out, leaving your Sheltie in the cold for too long is not healthy. When the winter intensifies, you should reduce the frequency at which you walk your Sheltie on the snow.
Also, you may want to resort to equipping your Sheltie with booties if you’re going to take it out in the cold. There are also other ready alternatives like your kid’s socks or mittens.
This will prevent the chances of something from the snow getting stuck between your Sheltie’s toes. Indeed, such a preventive effort will cut down the risk of a foot injury from cut and abrasion.
When it is getting colder, make an effort to keep your dog shelter warmer and insulated from cold air drafts. You can make use of pillows and warm blankets for it to sleep with.
Grooming is another core component of caring for your Sheltie in the cold. To sustain the insulating power of the coat, ensure to regularly brush it to reduce matting.
More than the grooming, the diet needs to be propped up. If your Sheltie is still spending substantial time outdoor in the cold as the winter rages, then you need to raise its diet. If possible, your Sheltie’s diet should be raised by another 10% (relative to what they eat before).
This rise in feeding is to supply your Sheltie with the extra energy it needs to sustain its warmness. The proteins and fat content of your Sheltie could be raised. Take note that you may not need to increase the diet of your Sheltie if it spends way more time indoors.