Thanks to their thick coats, most dogs can enjoy the winter wonderland and play outside even if it’s cold. However, like people dogs can get chilled too, so it’s extremely important to know when the risk of hypothermia outweighs the benefits of playing outside in cold weather.
So, how cold is too cold for dogs? Most dogs tolerate cold weather well until the temperature drops below 45° F. But, older dogs, puppies, and small breeds will feel uneasy in temperatures below 30° F. And once the temperature drops below 20° F all dogs are at risk of developing life-threatening conditions such as hypothermia.
Many factors can affect your dog and his ability to tolerate coldness. So, stay with us till the end of this article to learn more and find a way to keep your dog safe and warm during winter!
How Cold is Too Cold for Dogs?
Cold weather usually isn’t a problem for most dogs until the temperature drops below 45° F, but even then, certain dog breeds won’t get chilled. Owners of small breeds, puppies, dogs with thin coats, or elderly and sick dogs should keep a close eye on their canines when the temperature drops below 32° F.
However, when temperatures drop below 20° F, all dogs are at risk of developing life-threatening problems that result from frostbite and hypothermia (source).
Keep in mind that all dogs are individuals and can react differently to cold weather. Hence, if your pooch shows any signs that he is feeling cold, regardless of the temperature, you should pull out a coat or a sweater to keep him warm.
Does a Dog Need a Sweater?
Whether or not a dog will need to wear a sweater outside depends on a breed and several other factors.
As a general rule, slim dogs with thin coats such as Greyhounds need a sweater to stay warm while it’s cold outside. Furthermore, puppies and small dogs can’t generate the same body temperatures as large dogs and need to wear a coat during cold weather (source).
Last but not least, older and sick dogs who suffer from arthritis or other health problems have to have a sweater when they are out in colder weather. Note that dogs with arthritis may feel more comfortable wearing a sweater indoors too during cold winter months.
Does a Dog Need to Have Boots?
In most cases, your dog won’t have to wear boots to stay warm in cold temperatures. Most dogs feel uncomfortable wearing boots if they aren’t trained to do so from a young age.
However, if your dog has an injured paw, wearing boots can keep the affected area dry and protect it from further injury.
On the other hand, doggy boots can be a true life-saver if you live in an area where antifreeze and deicers are used to melt snow and ice. In this case, wearing boots can protect your dog’s paws from coming into contact with harsh chemicals and prevent them from being licked and consumed.
Ultimately, the choice is yours! But, know that wearing boots is a great way to protect your dog’s paws pads if he is comfortable wearing them.
How Will You Know If Your Dog Is Cold?
Just like us, our canine companions show signs that they are cold and it’s your responsibility to know and notice those signs. If your dog is shivering, whining, slowing down, holding up one or more paws, or searching for a place to crawl into, know that he is cold and that it’s time to go home (source).
Whenever in doubt, ask yourself if the cold is too cold for you. If you can feel it, you can bet that your dog feels it too, so head back home to get warm.
Cold Weather Safety Chart for Pets
Many factors affect a dog’s ability to deal with cold weather so figuring out how your dog will fare outside can be tricky at times. The chart below will give you an idea when and if it’s safe for your dog to be out.
|Temperature||Small Dogs||Medium-sized Dogs||Large Dogs|
|10° C – 50° F||Safe to be outside||Safe to be outside||Safe to be outside|
|7° C – 45° F||Risk is unlikely||Risk is unlikely||Safe to be outside|
|4° C – 40° F||Potentially unsafe||Potentially unsafe||Risk is unlikely|
|-1° C – 30° F||Potentially unsafe||Potentially unsafe||Potentially unsafe|
|-4° C – 25° F||Dangerous weather||Dangerous weather||Potentially unsafe|
|-6° C – 20° F||Life-threatening cold||Dangerous weather||Potentially unsafe|
|-9° C – 15° F||Life-threatening cold||Dangerous weather||Dangerous weather|
|-12° C – 10° F||Life-threatening cold||Life-threatening cold||Life-threatening cold|
Keep in mind that the temperature isn’t the only factor that determines the level of coldness your dog is going to feel once out. Wind, wet conditions, and cloudy weather have a huge impact on the way your pooch is going to feel the cold.
Your dog’s coat won’t provide enough insulation against wind chills and can easily become damp in the rain and snow. So, don’t use the thermometer as your only guide and factor in all weather conditions to prevent your dog from being cold outside.
Factors That Help Your Dog Fight Coldness
As mentioned earlier, many factors can affect how your dog will feel and respond to cold weather. While certain breeds cope well in the extreme conditions, others might start to shiver and whine in a slight breeze.
Here are some factors that will affect your dog’s response to the cold weather:
Coat type is a major factor that helps dogs cope with coldness. Besides looking nice, a dog’s coat serves as insulation, keeping your pooch warm during winter and cool during summer.
Breeds with thick double coats like Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, or Bernese Mountain Dogs were bred to handle extreme weather conditions and won’t feel the bite of cold. On the other hand, dogs with thin short coats like Whippets don’t do well in cold weather.
A dark-coated dog can absorb a lot of heat from sunlight on a clear winter day, so he will stay warm and fight off the cold. On the other hand, sunlight won’t have the same effect on dogs with white or cream coats.
Larger dogs have more fat and muscle on their bodies that serve as an added protection against cold. Small and toy breeds, on the other hand, don’t have this advantage and will get chilled more easily.
Fat is an excellent insulator and one of the reasons why chubby dogs don’t mind the cold as much as their skinny counterparts. However, obesity is a leading cause of many health problems and a big issue for many dogs (source).
Don’t try to fatten up your dog to help him stay warm during cold winter days. A coat or a sweater will keep your dog cozy and warm without putting his health at risk.
Dogs living in colder climates will deal with coldness way better than those living in warmer weather. For example, a Husky from Texas won’t be as immune to cold weather as those who live in Siberia.
Young puppies and senior dogs can’t regulate their body temperatures as well as dogs who are in their prime. Thus, they need a coat or a sweater to keep them protected against cold.
Healthy dogs will always cope better against coldness than sick senior pooches. So, if you have an older sick dog, make sure to pay close attention to his behavior during winter and consider investing in a warm dog coat.
And if you have a senior dog with existing health conditions you should seriously consider pet insurance that will cover treatment costs for hypothermia or other problems caused by cold weather.
While most dogs cope well in the cold weather, all dog owners should be vigilant once the temperature drops below 45° F. At this point, you should look for any signs of discomfort and opt to take your dog inside and get him warm.
Remember, every dog is unique, but some are more easily chilled than others. In the end, knowing your dog and observing his behavior will help you understand that he is cold and ready to head back home.