How Cold is Too Cold for Your Dog?

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10 Minute Read
Updated October 27, 2021

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. The animal thrives on fresh air and exercise. However, not all dogs can manage the cold the same. 

Some breeds are made to withstand extreme temperatures, such as the Siberian Husky, Malamute, and Samoyed. Other dog types cannot tolerate adverse weather. Breeds with short hair and low body weight are all factors to consider when deciding if it's too cold to walk your dog. 

When is it Too Cold for Dogs Outside?

Your pet needs to enjoy the great outdoors. It provides mental stimulation and exercise opportunities that help promote whole-body health. However, on occasion, the risks far outweigh the benefits when the temperature starts to plummet.

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

Some toy and small breeds, like chihuahuas, may need light sweaters depending on their coat type so look out for signs like shivering. 

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 dogs that love winter can't tolerate these temps for very long. 

The right protective gear can help, but it's up to you to choose the right outdoor activities and limit the time your dog spends outside to ensure they stay safe. 

Is it Too Cold for Dogs to Pee Outside?

If you are worried about your dog and the cold, keeping the animal indoors is your best bet. However, Fido must head outdoors when nature calls, so when is it too cold for your dog to pee outside?

Well, the answer is that it's very unlikely for it to be too cold for the average dog to go outside for a quick bathroom break. That doesn't mean that your dog will like it though.

Setting up an indoor bathroom might be a solution if your dog refuses to go outside. Here are a few indoor potty options that can be a temporary fix for the coldest days of winter:

  • Pee Pads - Disposable absorbent pads used for potty training young puppies.
  • Dog Litter Box - Just like a kitty litter box but bigger.
  • Fake Grass Box - A DIY option for bringing a little bit of outside inside. Check out this cool instruction video:


Risks of Cold Weather for Dogs

Dog-covered-in-snow

Some dogs love cold weather despite its dangers. They can't always make the best decisions for their own safety when they hear the call of the wild, so it's up to you to know the risks and to keep them safe no matter what winter throws at you. 

Hypothermia in Dogs

You'll want to keep a close eye on your pet and watch for symptoms of hypothermia. Hypothermia in dogs can occur if an owner leaves their pet unattended outdoors in freezing temperatures or even during an extended walk.

Symptoms of Hypothermia in Dogs

Hypothermia occurs when a dog's core temperature plunges. It is very dangerous if you don't act quickly, so make sure you know how to spot the signs of dog hypothermia:

    • Shivering
    • Breathing difficulty
    • Lethargic/sleepy 
    • Dilated pupils 
    • Skin feels cold to the touch.
    • Body temperature dips below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • Gums appear blue
    • Difficulty walking
    • Weakness
    • Quiet heartbeat 
    • Stupor
    • Unconsciousness/coma 

Treatment of Hypothermia in Dogs

Suppose you're wondering how to treat a dog with 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 care. 

    • Promptly remove your pet from the cold.
    • Dry off the pet if the dog's fur is damp
    • Wrap your pet in a blanket
    • Use hot water bottles to keep your dog warm (you can use heating pads but take great care not to burn your pet).
    • Provide a drink of warm fluid to the animal
    • Check your dog's temperature - it should not be below 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 Celsius). Take the temperature over 15 minutes until the dog's temperature increases to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 Celsius).

If your dog starts to display any symptoms of hypothermia, then you should seek veterinary care immediately. On your way to the veterinarian, keep your pet warm with the tips above. 

Frostbite in Dogs

Dogs are better equipped to walk around in sub-zero temps than us, but they are still susceptible to common cold-weather issues like frostbite. Frostbite on dogs is most common on thinner appendages that are farthest from their core, like paws, noses, and ears. 

Your dog's paws will be in direct contact with snow, ice, and cold water, so they are the most likely spot to get damaged by the cold. Check out How to Treat and Prevent Frostbite on Dogs Paws to help learn the signs and best practices for keeping your dog's paws safe in the winter. 

Stiffness in Joints

Dogs with hip and joint issues may feel the cold weather even more than dogs without mobility issues. The pressure changes that come with cold weather can cause muscles and connective tissues to expand. This inflammation can cause discomfort and even further limit your dog's mobility. 

Older dogs and dogs already suffering from joint inflammation issues like arthritis will be the most vulnerable to extreme weather. Limiting outdoor activities may be necessary on exceptionally cold days. 

Check out our Ultimate Dog Exercise Guide to see some of our favourite indoor dog exercises to keep your dog active even when the weather is less than agreeable. 

Some Dogs Are More Susceptible Than Others

husky-dog-catching-snowflakes

When considering what temperature is too cold for dogs, you'll need to think about dog breeds and coat types. Several variables impact how a canine responds to wintery weather. 

Coat Type

A dog with a robust, double-layered coat can tolerate cold better. You'll find this type of coat in Siberian Huskies, Newfoundland’s, Samoyeds, and Malamutes. The breeds were explicitly developed to withstand Arctic temperatures in Northern climates.

In addition to their abundant, insulative coat, the dogs also have anatomical, behavioural, and physiological developmental tools that make them better equipped to manage the frigid temperatures.

Short-haired breeds like dachshunds, chihuahuas, and greyhounds suffer horribly during chilly weather because their coats afford them little to no insulative properties. 

Coat Colour

Many pet owners are surprised to learn that coat colour is a deciding factor in whether a dog can withstand the cold. If it is a clear, sunny day, then a dark-coloured canine such as those with black or brown fur absorbs heat from the sunlight, which keeps them warmer than light-coloured animals. 

Colour isn't going to make a huge difference, but a bright sunny winter day could allow your black dog to feel a little more comfortable, even in frigid temps. 

Size of Dog

Small dogs can rapidly lose heat in cold temperatures. Their small stature makes them lose heat rapidly and become much colder than larger breeds. When factoring in what temperature is too cold for dogs, you'll need to think about the size of your furry buddy to make an accurate determination. 

Acclimatization

When the hot days of summer start to wane, a cool 10-degree day feels cold, but after spring arrives, that same 10-degree day feels warmer after a long frosty winter. 

The reason for this occurrence is physical acclimatization. If your dog is used to freezing temperatures, then the animal has acclimated to the cold and can better withstand it than a dog used to warm weather. 

Drastic weather changes can be more dangerous than the natural and gradual changes of each season. Keep this in mind when rescuing dogs from warm climates, like the southern US and Mexico.

Health and Age

A young puppy or a sick, elderly dog cannot effectively regulate their core body temperature. They will require additional protection in freezing weather compared to other breeds.

A doggy jacket such as the Canada Pooch True North Parka provides additional insulation to your little pooch. Another option is a canine warming suit such as the Hurtta Body Warmer.

Hurtta Adventure Gear

Tips to Keep Your Dog Warm in Cold Weather

Look At More Than Just Temperature

Even if the temperature on the thermometer reads that it's not that cold does not mean that it's comfortable for your dog. There are a lot of factors that influence how your furry friend feels the climatic shifts.  

Things to consider when evaluating what is too cold for a dog:

    • 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, and the animal loses its ability to withstand the cold temperatures.
    • Overcast Days: You might notice that on cloudy days the temperature feels colder. This is highly true for your dog. The dark coat on a canine will rapidly soak up the warmth from the sun and transmit itself to your dog. Cloud cover impedes the ability of the dog to absorb the warming rays. Your pup will automatically start to feel colder and lose much-needed warmth. 
    • Dampness/Excessive Moisture: Snow, 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 cold, 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 the dog's temperature. 

Stock Up on Winter Dog Gear

Keeping your dog warm and comfortable on his outdoor adventures requires the right dog apparel. Winter dog coats are made for all types of cold weather, so the style you choose should be based on your local climate. 

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

Canada Pooch Gear

Check Their Temperature

A dog's normal body temperature ranges from 101 to 102.5 F. (38 to 39 Celsius). When a dog is exposed to the cold, the animals' core temperature starts to fall. If it dips below 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 Celsius), then the puppy could quickly begin to experience hyperthermia. 

Keep Your House Comfortable

Some owners worry that the temperature inside of their home might be too cold for their dog. Typically, most large dogs are comfortable when the home's interior hovers between 69 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 21 Celsius). Small dogs are usually pleased when the home's temperature is 73 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 23 Celsius). 

Cover Them With a Blanket

Many dogs enjoy the warmth and coziness of a blanket to burrow under on a frigid day. Just watch to ensure the dog does not start chewing the material, which they can accidentally ingest or become tangled in. If the blanket begins to appear frayed, then remove it and provide a new blanket for your pup.  

Fido, it’s Cold Outside!  

Ruffwear-Powder-Hound-BlueOf course, you must take your dog outdoors for quick potty breaks, even when the weather turns cold. Keep the outing short and watch your pet closely for signs of discomfort or hypothermia. Always watch for indications that your companion is suffering from the cold and then act accordingly. 

If you own an Arctic breed, then you’ll be able to enjoy the chilly weather easier together and for longer periods of time.  However, even if you have a short-haired canine companion, you can still plan accordingly to keep the animal warm with booties and a jacket to enjoy short periods of outdoor fun together.

Does your dog hate cold weather? Let us know in the comments how you keep your pooch warm and safe when old man winter strikes!

Written by

Homes Alive Pets

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