What Temperature is Too Cold for Dogs? Learn Hypothermia Risks

6 Minute Read
Updated June 20, 2023

When winter arrives, the world turns into a magical wonderland of pristine whiteness. While your dog may not seem to mind, it's important to know how cold is too cold for your dog when the mercury drops.

Your dog likes to be wherever you are - even outdoors in the snow and extreme cold. The animal thrives on fresh air and exercise. However, not all dogs can manage cold the same. 

Some breeds are made to withstand extreme temperatures, such as the Siberian Husky, Malamute, and Samoyed.


When is it Too Cold for Dogs Outside?

Moderately cold weather above 7 Celsius (45 degrees Fahrenheit) is fine for most dogs. Unless your furry friend is very old, sick, or hairless, he probably won't even require an outer layer of clothing such as a sweater.

When the temperature dips between 0 and -10 Celsius (32-14 degrees Fahrenheit), then your dog is more than likely going to need a little extra protection, but with the right gear, these temperatures shouldn't affect your dog's regular outdoor activities.

The real risks come when the temp drops below 10 below C. Anyone living in the Canadian prairies or northern Canada can attest to just how cold, cold really is. Minus 40 is no joke, and even many dogs that love winter can't tolerate these temps for very long.

Senior dogs, young pups, small breeds, canines with health problems and those with thin coats are at increased risk of developing dog hypothermia if their body temperature drops in extreme cold temperatures or if they have wet fur.

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Hypothermia in Dogs in Cold Weather

You'll want to keep a close eye on your pet and watch for symptoms of dog hypothermia in dogs.

Severe hypothermia in dogs can occur if pet owners leave their pet unattended outdoors in freezing temperatures or even during an extended walk.

Hypothermia in dogs often does not start to show symptoms until it becomes moderate hypothermia.

Clinical signs to diagnose hypothermia:

    • Shivering
    • Breathing difficulty
    • Rapid breathing
    • Pale skin
    • Blood vessels are difficult to see on the dog's ears
    • Dangerous drop in core temperature
    • Lethargic/sleepy 
    • Dilated pupils 
    • Skin feels chilled to the touch
    • Dog's core body temperature drops dip below 95 degrees Fahrenheit (canine normal body temperature is between 101.0 to 102.5°F (38.3 to 39.2°C).
    • Pale gums appear blue
    • Difficulty walking
    • Weakness
    • Quiet heartbeat 
    • Stupor
    • Loss of consciousness/coma 

Treatment of Hypothermia in Dogs

Suppose you're wondering how to treat a dog with mild hypothermia. In that case, you'll need to be aware that the situation can quickly become life-threatening, so you'll want to seek immediate veterinary hospital care. Use a rectal thermometer to determine if there has been a significant drop in core temperature that can impact essential organs.

Hypothermia worsens if you do not warm your pooch, so you'll want to treat hypothermia quickly and efficiently. With rapid treatment, most dogs recover without suffering from kidney disease or some other long-term problem.

    • Treating hypothermia involves various warming techniques. Mild cases can usually be treated at home.
    • Promptly remove your pet from the chilly weather to naturally increase the body temperature.
    • Remove any wet clothes
    • Use a hair dryer to dry the fur
    • Wrap your pet in a blanket
    • Rub the pet's extremities to restore blood flow
    • Use a hot water bottle to keep your dog warm and bring up the dog's core temperature (you can use heating pads but take great care not to burn your pet).
    • Provide a drink of warm water bottles to the animal
    • Warm blankets in the clothes dryer and wrap your pup in the warm bedding and hot water bottles.
    • Check your canine's temperature - it should not be below 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 Celsius).

Feeding warm pet food to warm the internal organs slowly raises the low body temperature and also increases low blood sugar.


Tips to Keep Your Dog Warm in Cold Temperatures


Look At More Than Just Normal Body Temperature

Even if the temperature on the thermometer reads that it's not that chilly does not mean that it's comfortable for your dog, and you will need to ensure your doggo can stay warm and prevent hypothermia. Do not expose your pup to rain or cold water when outdoors.

There are a lot of factors that influence how your furry friend feels about the climatic shifts.  Preventing hypothermia involves monitoring weather conditions before taking Fido for a walk so you avoid prolonged exposure when temperatures drop.

    • Wind Chill: Even a light wind has the ability to cut through a canine's fur like a knife slicing through butter. When the wind chill is intense, the insulating ability of a dog's coat plummets.
    • Overcast Days: You might notice that on cloudy days the temperature feels colder. . Cloud cover impedes the ability of the dog to absorb the warming rays.
    • Dampness/Excessive Moisture: Snow, freezing rain, sleet, fog, and more create dampness that can quickly sink into your dog's bones and make the pooch feel miserable. Even if the outdoor temperature is not that chilly, the moisture in the air that settles into the dog's fur starts to cause the animal's core temperature to spiral down.
    • Activity: When an animal is active, they start to generate body heat which helps to maintain normal temperatures. 

Stock Up on Winter Dog Gear

Keeping your dog warm room and comfortable on his outdoor adventures requires the right dog apparel. Winter dog coats are made for all types of inclement weather, so the style you choose should be based on your local climate. Jackets and coats can help regulate body temperature, especially in elderly dogs and small dogs.

You want to protect your dog's skin during the winter months. Always make sure the sweater or coat extends around the dog's abdomen to maintain core temperature. This is especially important in senior dogs or for pets with thin fur.

Your dog might also benefit from dog boots in snow or icy weather conditions to protect the paws. In areas where weather deicers are used, such as snowmelt, dog booties will keep the dog's feet warm and protect the skin of the cold feet from caustic chemicals. 

Dogs can quickly develop hypothermia, so you need to remain vigilant.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is canine hypothermia? 

Hypothermia is a medical condition that occurs when a dog's body temperature drops significantly below its normal range, which is around 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (38 to 39.2 degrees Celsius).

What are the symptoms of mild hypothermia in dogs? 

Signs of hypothermia in dogs include shivering, lethargy, weakness, pale gums, dilated pupils, chilled skin to the touch, slowed heart rate, shallow breathing, and in severe cases, loss of consciousness.

How can I prevent hypothermia in dogs? 

To prevent canine hypothermia, provide your pooch with proper insulation, such as a warm coat or sweater. Avoid extended outdoor activities during freezing weather; always dry your furry friend.

What should I do if I suspect my dog has mild hypothermia? 

Move your pup to a warm area, wrap them in blankets, and use gentle warming methods like heating pads to gradually bring up the dog's temperature. Avoid direct heat, and contact a vet since severe hypothermia can be life-threatening

Can certain dog breeds be more prone to hypothermia? 

Certain dog breeds are more vulnerable to hypothermia based on factors such as size, coat type, and cold tolerance. Smaller breeds, short-haired dogs, those with very little body fat, and breeds adapted to warmer climates are generally more susceptible to the cold.

When is it appropriate to seek veterinary care for a dog with moderate hypothermia? 

If your pup's temperature drops dangerously low or their condition doesn't improve after attempting to warm them up, it's essential to seek immediate veterinary care. Always seek veterinary attention straight away after prolonged exposure to the cold if your dog's temperature drops to dangerous lows. 

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Written by

Homes Alive Pets


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