How Cold is Too Cold for Dogs?

Dog in snow

Sometimes when you step outside — even if just for a brisk walk — cold is an understatement.

For within moments, your teeth chatter like a train in a blizzard. Your hair sparkles with frost, and you feel your arms closing in around you in an ill-guided attempt to contain as much warmth as possible.

Perhaps that cold weather is something you can endure. Perhaps you tell yourself you’ll be home in half an hour where a steaming cup of hot chocolate awaits. It’s no big deal, right?

Of course, it isn’t. You even have your furry companion by your side, and as author Angie Weiland-Crosby once said, “When life grows cold, a dog will warm your soul.”

Yet, let’s put ourselves in our dog’s shoes — or paws in this case — how cold is too cold for dogs? 

The Frigid Outdoors: When to Keep Those Paws Indoors 

Unfortunately, there isn’t a straight answer to “how cold is too cold.” While we can give an estimate, one must also consider the following factors:

  • Is it wet outside?
  • How heavy is your dog’s coat?
  • Is your dog climatized?

It goes without saying: the chihuahua raised in Beverly Hills will have a much harder time than the bearded collie raised in Alaska.

Now, that doesn’t mean you have to decide alone whether to take your pet outside during cold weather.

At DoggySups, we’ve met every kind of dog you can imagine, and through our expert knowledge, we’ve developed the definitive go-to guide on how cold is too cold.

We’ll start with small dogs and work our way up. Short on time? Jump right on ahead.

Small Dogs 

(Examples dog breeds include Boston terrier, dachshund, pugs, and Pomeranians)

Temperature (C) Temperature (F) Are these Cold Temperatures Safe for Small Dogs?
10-15°C 50-60°F Yes! Get out exploring.
9-5°C 50-45°F Use more caution. Minimize walk lengths and bring a jacket for your dog.
4 to -1°C 40-30°F It’s better to stay indoors, but if you must go outside, keep a close eye on your dog and make sure they have a jacket on and either socks or simple rubber boots.
-2°C beyond. 28°F and beyond. It’s safer to stay indoors. If you must go outside, do not stay outside for long, and make sure your dog is wrapped up comfortably.

Medium Dogs

(Examples dog breeds include Australian shepherd, basset hound, Labrador, and golden retrievers)

Temperature (C) Temperature (F) Are these Cold Temperatures Safe for Medium Dogs?
10-15°C 50-60°F It’s safe. Have fun and enjoy the outdoors.
9-5°C 50-45°F You can go out, but be careful, and keep a jacket with you in case the temperature drops.
4 to -10°C 40-14°F Make sure to shorten the lengths of walks. Bring a jacket, socks, or rubber boots, and keep a close eye on your dog.
-9°C beyond. 15°F and beyond. Stay indoors. If in an emergency or an essential trip, keep your dog's exposure to a minimum.

Large Dogs

(Examples dog breeds include Bernese mountain dog, Samoyed, chow chow, Alaskan malamutes, and Siberian huskies)

Temperature (C) Temperature (F) Are these Cold Temperatures Safe for Large Dogs?
7-15°C 50-45°F Take your dog out and bask in the sun.
6-4°C 43-39°F It’s safe, but make sure to bring a jacket ready for if your dog starts getting cold.
3 to -11°C 37°F-12°F It’s a lot safer to stay indoors. Yet, if you need to go outside, bring a jacket, boots and keep a close eye on your dog. Minimize walking time.
-12°C beyond. 12°F and beyond. Do not go outdoors. However, if you can’t avoid it, keep your dog wrapped up with rubber boots and a jacket, and keep a close eye on him.

Remember: Don’t use these temperatures as guarantees. As we said above, there are other considerations you should take into account, such as if it’s wet outside. Wind chill can drop temperatures significantly, too.

Another consideration — while not immediately related to cold — is the salt people spread in wintery conditions to stop ice from forming. It can dry out your dog’s paws leading to cracking and skin irritations, so it should be avoided.

However, whether from being irritated by salt or from the weather alone, it’s essential you know when it's too cold for your dog, and he’s had enough of that nasty weather.

How to Avoid Catastrophe 101: The Definitive Signs It’s Too Cold for Dogs

When your dog starts showing the following signs, it’s time to head home:

  • Shivering.
  • Whining/barking.
  • Lifted paw.

Pro Tip: A lifted paw isn’t just a sign of cold but can also indicate when dogs have ice and snow caught between their toes.

Of course, while the above are known indications of dogs being cold, you know your furry companion better than anyone — so any unusual signs may be a giveaway that your dog is too cold.

  • Are they usually excitable but showing signs of anxiety? 
  • Are they sitting more often when normally they’d run?

And remember: dogs can suffer from hypothermia, too. Here are signs you should look out for to suggest this worsening condition.

Signs of Hypothermia in Dogs

  • Pale gums.
  • Lethargy.
  • Muscle Stiffness.
  • Lack of coordination.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Significantly reduced breathing/heart rates.

Hypothermia can be fatal to dogs. While the key to treatment is in the initial prevention of it, if you suspect your dog may be suffering from hypothermia, you should take them to see your local veterinarian immediately.

Equipped with this knowledge, you’re prepared to tackle the outdoors with your canine friend during cold weather. However, mistakes do happen — and even if your dog is climatized, they might still suffer from the cold. Let’s briefly explore ways to warm your pet back up.

Dog Owners: Defeat the Cold and Get Ready For Warmer Days

Once you’re back home and the kettle is boiling — let’s not forget about our best friend. To raise your dog’s body temperature after a cold venture, warm up some blankets (or better yet, use heated blankets) and wrap up your furry friend.

Use a hot water bottle, too. Place it on your dog’s stomach — making sure it’s covered up, so there’s no risk of your pet getting a burn.

And finally: don’t forget warm fluids. Did you know you can get herbal tea for dogs?

Keep your dog relaxed, and check his temperature frequently. And don’t forget to book a visit with your vet when his temperatures are back to a normal level to ensure there’s been no lasting damage.

Want to treat your dog after a trip out? Try Pet Health Solutions CardioMAX Heart Health Soft Chews for Dogs. Dogs love them, and they’re great for heart support!

keep dog warm and with good health conditions. Watch for health risks outside and uncontrollable variables
Pet Health Solutions CardioMAX Heart Health Soft Chews for Dogs - 60 Pcs

Frequently Asked Questions? 

How Long Can Dogs Be Outside in the Cold?

Generally speaking, this depends on the dog breed, thickness of fur, and size. However, veterinary consultant Sara Ochoa says.

“Dogs can go outside for 15 to 20 minutes at below-freezing temperatures to use the bathroom and play,” — Sara Ochoa

While this is a good rule, keep a close eye on your dog while outside and follow our above indications that a dog may be too cold to know when to return indoors. 

Is Cold Weather Bad For Dogs?

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite. Both conditions can have lasting effects.

So make sure to never keep your dog outside for prolonged periods, especially if below freezing point.

Make sure to keep your pet wrapped up warm, and offer them some tasty treats when they get home to put the memory of the cold hardship behind them. 

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Featured Image: Unsplash by Christian Wiediger

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