dog lying down wrapped in blanket winter snow outside

What Temperature Is Too Cold For My Dog?

Winter is coming and baby, it's getting cold outside. The dropping temperatures make this season the perfect time to cozy up by the fireplace with a hot cocoa. But dog owners have to go outside regularly, at least to take their pup to the bathroom. But how cold is too cold for dogs? We discuss that here:

How Cold Is Too Cold?

First things first, it's important to note that all dogs are unique and that means each one's tolerance for cold temperatures can vary. However, there are some guidelines from Tufts Animal Care And Condition for what temperatures are too cold for your dog, based on his or her size.

In general, for dogs of all sizes, there is no risk at 55 degrees Fahrenheit, while 10 degrees Fahrenheit is potentially life threatening. For large breeds, there is no risk down to 45 degrees and risk is unlikely at 40 degrees, though you'll want to start being careful there. From 35 to 20 degrees, there's a potential for the temperature to be unsafe and you'll want to keep an eye on your dog. And at 15 degrees, temperatures becomes dangerous.

For medium sized dogs, there is no risk at 50 degrees and at 45 degrees, risk is unlikely. But 40 degrees through 30 can be unsafe and 25 through 15 is dangerous. And for small breeds, risk is unlikely at 50 and 45 degrees, but 40 through 30 degrees is potentially unsafe and 25 degrees is dangerous. It's also important to note that, for small breeds, 20 degrees begins to be life threatening. This is because small dog breeds lose heat much more quickly than larger ones, especially because more of their body touches the snow and ice on the ground.

Pet Plan Insurance created an infographic to display this information in an easy-to-read way:

how cold is too cold for your dog? pet plan insurance

Factors That May Affect These Guidelines 

As previously mentioned, these are general guidelines, so there are some factors that may affect them:

  1. Coat: Dogs with thick, double-layered coats tolerate cold temperatures better than others because their fur acts as insulation. These cold-weather breeds often originated from cooler climates, making them better adapted to lower temperatures.
  2. Weight: Dogs that have more body fat have more natural insulation, so thinner dogs aren't able to tolerate the cold as well. This, however, does not mean you should try to fatten up your dog for winter. It's important to maintain a healthy weight for your dog to avoid health issues.
  3. Age: Older dogs often have less fat than younger dogs, which means they don't have that natural insulation to tolerate the cold. In addition, their immune systems may be weaker, which affects their ability to stay warm.
  4. Health: Dogs with health issues may also have weaker immune systems, making it more difficult to maintain body heat and keep themselves warm.
  5. Wind chill or wet conditions: Both wind chill and wet conditions can make the temperatures outside feel cooler than they are. For example, when it's 35 degrees outside with winds of 30 mph, it feels more like 20 degrees. Thus, you'll want to exercise extra caution in these instances.

For dogs who cannot tolerate the cold as well, you can help them out with winter clothing such as jackets and coats, scarves and booties for walks.

Warning Signs Your Dog Is Too Cold

You can enjoy winter with your canine companion, you'll just want to be safe about it. Here are some warning signs that your dog is too cold and it's time to go back inside:

  1. Shivering: The most obvious sign that your dog is too cold is shivering.
  2. Whining: Many dogs will whine or even bark to tell you they've had enough of the cold. They'll usually do so while making eye contact.
  3. Halting: Some dogs will stop walking, playing or moving. And if they lift up a paw while standing still, they may have ice or snow stuck to their paws - which is a good indication that it's time to go inside.
  4. Fearful or anxious behavior: Other dogs may act anxious, nervous or afraid when they get too cold. Behaviors include pacing, panting, whining, barking, among others.

If you want to avoid being outside as much as possible (for yourself and your dog's safety), no one will blame you. There are plenty of ways to entertain your dog inside so he or she doesn't get too bored throughout winter.

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