Make sure your pup is bundled up!

By Jessica Pearce Rotondi
December 01, 2020
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With winter on its way, many dog owners are wondering if it’s too cold for their dogs to be outside. While dogs can feel cold in certain weather conditions, there are ways to protect them when temperatures drop. From booties that protect sensitive paws to dedicated dog coats to dry nose balms, pet owners have more options than ever. Even if you don’t have a cold weather dog breed, you and your pet can enjoy playtime in the snow if you follow these seasonal tips to keep your dog warm all season long.

Do Dogs Get Cold in Winter?

Yes, dogs do get cold in winter. Like humans, dogs are also susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite. Indoor dogs also require special care in winter. “The dry air is just as hard for your dog as it is for you,” says Zay Satchu, DVM and founder of Bond Vet in Brooklyn, New York. “Make sure they have constant access to water. If your dog experiences a dry nose in the winter, you can also consider a pet-friendly nose balm to keep it hydrated.”

How Cold Is Too Cold for Dogs To Be Outside?

“This varies depending on the breed, but a good rule of thumb is if it is too cold for you, it is likely too cold for them,” says Satchu. “Breeds with thicker coats are typically derived from colder climate areas and will have a higher tolerance for low temperatures.” This means a Siberian husky will likely have more tolerance for the cold than a short-haired dog like an Italian greyhound.

Credit: Pavel Ilyukhin / Shutterstock

Age can also be a factor in cold tolerance, according to Satchu. “Puppies and geriatric patients will have a more difficult time regulating their body temperature, both in hot and cold weather, so if it’s very cold you should provide them with a sweater or coat and limit their exposure to extreme temperatures.”

Health conditions like heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes can make dogs more susceptible to the cold, according to the American Veterinary Medicine Association. You should also factor in wind chill and other weather conditions like rain, sleet, or snow that can make the great outdoors even more chilly for dogs. While the exact temperature that dogs get cold varies, you should not keep your dog outside for an extended period of time if the temperature drops to 30 degrees and below. This chart offers some general guidelines to follow.

Credit: Illustrations / Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

Signs Your Dog Is Too Cold

“When dogs are cold, they may shiver, have a hunched posture, and lift or hold their paws off the ground,” Satchu says. “In extreme cases, hypothermia is possible. Signs of hypothermia include lethargy, muscle stiffness, weakness, decreased mental alertness, and even loss of consciousness.” You should seek immediate treatment if your dog shows signs of hypothermia.

What To Do If Your Dog Gets Too Cold

Consider bundling your dog in warm layers even before you go outside. “Smaller breeds and breeds with very short or thin coats are going to be more susceptible to cold. If it is very cold for you, it is probably best to give your dog a coat or sweater,” Satchu says.

Never leave a dog unattended in a cold car, as it can accelerate symptoms of hypothermia. If your dog is exhibiting any signs of hypothermia or frostbite, call your vet immediately.

How To Keep Your Dog's Paws Protected From the Cold

“Paws are one of the few areas of a dog's body that are not protected by fur, and as a result they are prone to the cold,” says Satchu. “Dogs can potentially suffer from frostbite if conditions are severe. If Fido will tolerate it, booties are a great way to protect paws from the cold and from the salt and sand that is used on walkways.” If booties aren’t your dog’s style, wiping off paws with soap and water or even dog wipes can help prevent damage.

Do Dogs Get Cold at Night?

It is possible for dogs to get cold at night, even if they’re kept indoors. “If you think your dog is getting cold at night, consider giving him a cozy blanket to snuggle up to in bed. Most dogs will not feel cold at night or will seek out a warmer place if they do,” says Satchu.

Cold Weather Dog Breeds Who Enjoy Winter Conditions

Cold weather dog breeds like Great Pyrenees, Saint Bernards, and Newfoundlands were bred as working dogs in northern climates and are better suited to lower temperatures. “They all have long, thick coats that protect them from cold and snowy conditions,” Satchu says. In general, dogs with double coats of fur and smaller ears that resist frostbite thrive best in cold climates.