How Cold is Too Cold for Dogs Outside? Winter Safety

Walking our dogs is important for their health – both their physical health to keep them in shape, and their mental health with the sights, sounds, and smells they get to explore on their daily walks. But when the cold weather kicks in, is it still safe to take your pooch out as normal? In this article, we’ll discuss the factors that affect how well your dog can tolerate cold weather. We’ll also take a look at how cold is too cold for dogs to stay outside, or to go out for long walks.
Dr. Kathryn Dench - Qualified Veterinarian Surgeon with over ten years of experience in small animal medicine.
October 4, 2022
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6
min read

When is it Too Cold for a Dog? 

Each dog is built differently, and their breed, coat type, weight, age, and activity level all affect how well they tolerate colder temperatures. Here’s how it works. 

Breed

Large dog breeds typically lose heat slower than smaller dog breeds, meaning they can tolerate cold temperatures for longer. Alaskan malamutes, St Bernards, German Shepherds, and Chow Chows are dog breeds that can tolerate the cold fairly well, while Chihuahuas, Pugs, Russkiy Toys, and Beagles are better suited to warmer weather. 

Coat Type

Our dogs are perfectly made for the places where they came from and where they thrive. Conventionally, dogs with thicker fur are more well-insulated than the ones with thinner fur. That is why your thick-haired buddies may be able to tolerate the winter, and your thin-haired ones need a bit of the extra warm hug.

For example, the Siberian Husky came from the freezing climate of Siberia, which has an average annual temperature of 0.5 °C or 32.9 °F. The Chihuahua, on the other hand, comes from Mexico, and has a thin coat that is adapted to warmer temperatures.

Age and Level of Activity

Just like humans, older dogs cannot regulate their body temperature like the younger pack members. Although it is common for our fur babies to sleep a little more than usual during the colder season, you will notice that your senior dogs rest a little more than the younger ones. This could be because they are cold! So you might want to give your older dogs warmer beds during winter to keep them warm.

Puppies are also at greater risk of feeling the cold. Although they’re active, they are smaller and have a large surface area to lose heat through, which puts them at extra risk.

Weight

In science class, we were taught that bodies with higher fat percentages tend to keep more heat compared to their thinner counterparts. This is because the subcutaneous or under-layer skin has fatty tissue that acts as an insulator and keeps the body warm. Thinner body types generally have lesser fatty tissue than thicker ones. This means that dogs who are carrying a little extra weight can tolerate cold weather better than skinnier ones. 

How Cold is Too Cold for a Dog Outside

Although various factors affect how well your dogs can tolerate the cold, even the largest dog with the thickest fur cannot handle freezing temperatures for long periods. So, at what temperature do dogs get cold? Can dogs survive in the cold? Let’s discuss it.

45+ °F 

Most dogs can handle cooler weather as long as the temperature doesn't drop below 45 °F. But you should watch for shivering, especially in older dogs, puppies, and those with thinner coats.

32-45 °F 

If you have a healthy adult dog, you can still walk them outside with a temperature between 32-45 °F. Small breeds and dogs with thin coats should wear fleecy jackets and boots to help protect them from the cold temperatures, and you should be careful not to keep them outside too long. Older dogs and puppies should be taken out for toileting only, and monitored for shivering and other symptoms of hypothermia.

20-32 °F 

Some dogs can still tolerate temperatures below 32 °F, especially those larger breeds with thicker fur. But temperatures below 20 °F can be too cold for our furry friends to be outside for long periods. This can cause hypothermia or frostbite, health problems often caused by cold temperatures.

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Final Thoughts

Various factors influence our dog’s ability to tolerate cold. Some are related to their breed and genetics, while others relate to their age and health condition. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of hypothermia in dogs, and make sure your pet is adequately clothed for walks on cold winter days.

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GoodPaw Pet Services Inc., GoodPaw, offers free advice, product information and other editorial resources that are intended for informative purposes only, and should not be used in place of proper veterinary care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat your pet. If your pet is experiencing any health concerns, contact a licensed veterinarian. GoodPaw assumes no responsibility for action taken based on information given from GoodPaw.com.

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