Winter Safety: What Temperature is Too Cold for Dogs?
Jack Frost doesn’t just nip at noses, but at our pooch’s paws too. Even though our dogs may have a built-in fur coat, winter months and frigid temperatures can present challenges for our four-legged family members.
It’s important to be aware of how the effects of low temperatures can impact our dog’s health and what precautions you can take when spending some quality time outdoors. Let’s break down how cold is too cold for our furry friends (and other winter safety tips).
How Cold Is Too Cold for My Dog?
According to DVM Jennifer Coates, it’s time to pay attention to your dog’s outdoor activities once the temperature falls below 45 degrees. While not necessarily dangerous, dogs with shorter hair and little or no undercoat will start to feel uncomfortable on these colder days. Once the temperature hits 32 degrees or below, small dogs, dogs that are not built for winter, young puppies, and older dogs should have limited time outdoors.
Of course, there are cold-weather dog breeds, such as an Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky, or Samoyed, that have more protection and actually prefer cold temperatures. Pet parents should still monitor these dogs when they’re outside. Dr. Coates recommends paying especially close attention to dogs when it’s below 20 degrees.
It’s also important to note that temperature isn’t the only factor to consider. Wind chill, moisture levels, and snow can further affect how a dog reacts to being outside. The simplest rule of thumb is that if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet to be out longer than a few minutes for a potty break.
How Does Cold Weather Affect Dogs?
Cold weather impacts dogs in several ways. Freezing temperatures can cause hypothermia and frostbite fairly quickly. Wintry conditions also create other dangers. Slippery surfaces can cause dogs to slip and fall, leading to a variety of injuries.
The cold is particularly tough on our pet’s paws. Chunks of ice, snow, or rock salt can lodge themselves between your dog’s paw pads and cut their feet. Prolonged exposure to salt and other de-icing chemicals can lead to chemical burns and even make your best friend more susceptible to frostbite.
Signs Your Dog Needs to Come Inside from the Cold
There are a variety of signs that your dog is too cold. Periodically check on your pooch and look for these signals to determine when it’s time to come back inside.
- Whimpering, whining, or excessive barking. This is your dog trying to “verbally” say it’s too cold.
- Unwillingness to move. If your pooch stops walking or playing and starts prancing on his feet or holding up a paw, it’s time to go indoors. When you get inside, check his paws for any snow or ice lodged in their foot pads.
- Shivering. Simply put, a shivering dog has had enough of the cold.
- Signs of anxiety. Some dogs become anxious when they are too cold. They may even become fearful and turn around, trying to head back toward home.
- Looking for a hiding place. Some dogs will look for shelter under a car, a bush, somewhere else when they’re too cold. If your dog starts hiding, it’s time to come inside for warmth.
Winter Safety Tips for Pet Parents
Cold weather can pose problems for your pup, but there are measures you can take to help your dog enjoy the winter wonderland safely and comfortably! Here are a few other ways you can help your dog stay healthy and warm.
Limit time outdoors
The best way to prevent cold weather issues is to prevent them before they happen. Never leave your dog in the car when it’s cold outside and avoid putting them out in below-freezing temperatures. Instead, opt to spend more quality playtime indoors during the colder months and limit cold weather activities to a minimum.
Give your dog a good wipe down when coming back indoors
After a walk, wipe down your dog’s paws. This practice will help clear away any ice or debris that collect there.
Dress your dog warmly
If your dog doesn’t mind donning clothes, a sweater and some booties can help protect your pup. Just keep in mind that dogs lose most of their body temperature through their paws, noses, and mouths. Clothes can help ward off some of the cold, but you shouldn’t rely on them as a perfect solution.
Check your dog's collar and chip
Dogs can easily become lost in the winter when snow and ice mask the smells they may normally use to find their way home. Be sure your dog is wearing proper identification and that any microchip information is up to date.
Keep Your Best Friend Happy and Warm This Season
A few precautions and a little information go a long way toward enjoying a happy, healthy winter. Want to learn more about how you can support your best friend all year round? Sign up for our Best Friends Club today to receive our special newsletter with helpful articles, training tips, and members-only discounts on Bil-Jac products.