Health & Wellness
How cold is too cold for dogs?
Know when to bring your pet inside
As the temperature drops, it’s important to think about how cold weather affects our pups. Is it always safe for them to be outside? How long can they withstand low temperatures? Veterinarian and pet health advocate Dr. Aliya McCullough shares how to monitor your pup’s safety in colder weather.
(Check out our hot weather guide, too, to learn more about pet safety in warmer temperatures.)
Your pet’s size helps determine when it’s safe for them to play outside in the cold. To make your decision about outdoor fun easier, we created a Cold Weather Safety Chart.
Use caution when the temperature drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit (around 7 degrees Celsius). It’s potentially unsafe for little-or-medium-sized dogs with thin coats to be outside, but big dogs with heavier coats are probably OK. When the temperature drops to 20 degrees Fahrenheit and below, all dogs are at a higher risk of hypothermia and frostbite.
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When deciding if the weather is safe for your best friend, consider their coat thickness, too. Dog breeds like Siberian Huskies, Samoyed and Newfoundlands have denser coats and are usually more comfortable in colder temperatures. But, if your dog has a thin coat, like greyhounds or Xoloitzcuintles, and the temperature is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s time to bundle up.
Always consider the weather elements when taking your dog outside. Walking your dog in rainy, windy, foggy and overcast conditions when it’s below 32 degrees Fahrenheit isn’t the best idea.
Familiarity with the cold
Safety also depends on whether your dog is used to being outdoors during colder conditions. If they’re a cold-friendly breed (like Siberian Huskies) or are used to being outdoors in colder temperatures, then it’s OK to trust your individual pup’s comfort level. However, dogs generally shouldn’t sleep outside, especially when temperatures hit below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
Stay near your dog while they’re playing or hanging outside. If the temperature is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s too cold for your dog to swim. And if you plan on leaving your dog in the car for a few minutes on a day that cold, make sure to keep the heat running. You’re your dog’s best advocate when it comes to cold weather safety, so if you feel uncomfortable, chances are your dog does, too.
Supervision also brings up an important topic: hypothermia. If you find a dog that’s showing signs of hypothermia, which include shaking, lethargy, stiff muscles, low heart rate or dilated pupils, act fast. Call your vet, move them into a warm area and cover them with blankets. You can also incorporate heating blankets or bottles, but make sure to put several layers between the heating elements and the dog to avoid burning the pup’s skin.
Your dog depends on you to keep them safe. Our tips and chart will help you to make quick decisions so the cold weather adventures are always fun.
The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.
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Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash