Ever wonder if your German Shorthaired Pointer needs their winter coat? Could you GSP be suffering from cold-induced lethargy, and is the solution as simple as a wardrobe change, i.e., a winter coat?
Did your German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) spend the summer months happily romping about the nearby forests but now seems quiet and subdued during the inclement weather of winter?
Your German Shorthaired Pointer will need to wear a winter coat in temperatures below 45°F. GSPs who are ill, undernourished, or in vulnerable life stages are more cold-sensitive than healthy adult GSPs. Vulnerable GSPs will need more care and thicker thermal jackets to help them during winter.
Winter is approaching and with it blustering winds, whitewashed landscapes, and freezing temperatures.
GSPs can’t tell you when they’re cold, and thus it’s their owners that must “read” their dogs to know if their GSP needs help staying warm. Winter coats are a simple but effective method of helping your GSP stay safe in cold weather.
Is A GSP More Vulnerable To The Cold Than Other Dogs?
All dogs can develop hypothermia, frostbite, and other exposure-related illnesses, but certain breeds have been bred to tolerate cold conditions better than others.
Cold-tolerant dog breeds tend to have long thick coats, with dense undercoats. These dog breeds also tend to be large and giant breed dogs with robust frames and thick layers of protective fat.
Examples of cold-tolerant breeds are Pyrenean Mountain Dogs, Ovcharkas, and Saint Bernards.
How Long Are GSP’s Coats?
The answer to this question is more than evident as it is given away in the breed’s name, i.e., German SHORTHAIRED Pointer.
The coat of a GSP comprises densely packed short hairs that feel bristly and slightly coarse to touch.
GSP’s have longer guard hairs on their haunches and the underside of their tails, although the hairs are not so long that they create a “fantail” or provide any helpful insulation.
Some diseases, like Cushing’s disease, can cause GSPs to grow long woolly coats. However, these unnaturally long coats are due to a disease process and not a standard American Kennel Club-approved coat.
In fact, shaggy-coated GSPs with Cushing’s disease are more sensitive to cold than their healthy shorthaired relatives.
How Much Protective Fat Do GSP’s Have?
A healthy amount of body fat is essential to support many basic metabolic functions.
The protective lining of fat around the body and internal organs (e.g., the kidneys) provides cushioning to delicate organs and insulation to the body. Thereby reducing the amount of energy required for an animal to stay warm.
The GSP is a hard-bodied, sleekly built athlete. Their powerful muscle-packed bodies are rarely softened by a generous fat layer and thus cannot benefit from the insulating properties of fat.
Although GSP’s are large dogs with sturdy, robust frames, their short coats and lean bodies make them more vulnerable to the cold than other dog breeds. Thus, most GSPs will need to wear coats for part or all of the winter months.
Are Some GSPs More Cold-Intolerant Than Others?
Like humans, some GSPs appear to be more resistant to colder temperatures, while others start shivering at the mere mention of an incoming cold front.
Regardless of whether your GSP currently has a Chuck Norris tolerance for cold or is a delicate summer flower, their cold tolerance will change throughout their life. Changes in a GSP’s cold intolerance occur due to:
- Body condition
- Life stage, i.e., their age
How Does Illness Affect Cold Tolerance?
GSPs suffering from an acute illness (e.g., hemorrhagic gastroenteritis) or chronic disease (e.g., diabetes) will be less effective at dealing with cold weather. Their bodies have increased energy demands and thus cannot divert resources to maintain the GSP’s core body temperature.
Some conditions, like arthritis and lupus, are exacerbated by cold temperatures. Cold weather may cause a flare-up of symptoms in GSPs with systemic lupus erythematosus while arthritic joint pain is worsened during cold exposure.
How Does Body Condition Affect Cold Tolerance?
As previously discussed, dogs with low body fat are more vulnerable to cold. GSPs who have been starved due to neglect and abuse will need extra care during winter.
Their bodies will have to work harder to stay warm due to the depletion of essential fat stores.
The GSPs will need to wear thick winter coats in addition to being fed high-energy, high-fat foods.
The winter coat will help prevent heat loss, while the good quality food will assist the GSP in meeting the increased metabolic demands as they gain weight.
How Does Your GSP’s Life Stage Affect Cold Tolerance?
As newborns, GSPs have virtually no fat stores; their fat stores are built up during the first few weeks of life.
The GSP’s fat stores will once again be depleted when your puppy has a growth spurt transforming them into rangy long-legged juveniles.
Puppies will often try to curl up with other dogs or humans for warmth. GSP owners need to provide the puppies with thick snuggly blankets and winter coats during cold spells.
Physical activity during play or work increases the GSPs metabolic activity, and thus more heat energy is generated. Sedentary dogs, like senior GSPs, are less mobile than their younger counterparts and therefore more vulnerable to the cold.
At What Temperature Do GSPs Need A Winter Coat?
Most vets and experienced dog owners advise that short-coated healthy adult GSPs be equipped with a light winter coat at temperatures below 45°F.
As the temperatures continue to fall, your GSP will benefit from being fitted with additional layers or a thicker jacket.
Two of the easiest methods of determining if your GSP needs a winter coat are:
- Judging your body temperature and cold tolerance
- Watching your GSP’s behavior.
If you feel that you need more than a light covering (i.e., a long-sleeved shirt or light jersey are not sufficient to keep you warm), then your GSP would also benefit from wearing additional layers.
However, if you are hesitant about the reliability of your body’s internal thermostat, watching your GSP’s behavior will give you valuable insight into how cold they’re feeling.
Signs of mild cold exposure in GSPs:
- Curling into a tight ball
- Nesting, i.e., trying to find the warmest, cuddliest place to curl up
- Trying to curl up next to humans or other dogs
Hypothermia In GSPs
Hypothermia is a potentially fatal consequence of prolonged cold exposure; it results in a critical drop in core body temperature. The GSP’s body can no longer support essential life functions, and the dog will die unless their body temperature is raised.
Signs of hypothermia in GSPs:
- An increased heart rate which will gradually slow and eventually stop
- Sluggishness and lack of response followed by a loss of consciousness
- Pale membranes and dilated pupils
- Violent shivering which disappears during late-stage hypothermia
- Altered breathing rates
All GSPs showing signs of hypothermia must be taken to the vet urgently!
Hypothermia can be prevented by kitting your GSP out in appropriate winter gear, letting them sleep in the warm house, and monitoring your GSP for cold-induced issues.
All GSPs will benefit from wearing a light winter coat in temperatures below 45°F. However, vulnerable GSPs such as sick dogs, puppies, senior GSPs, and underweight GSPs may need to be fitted with thicker winter jackets at warmer temperatures.