Dogs And Cold Weather: How Cold Is Too Cold For Dogs?

29 November 2022

Can you tell if your dog can handle cold weather? Find out the potential risks of dogs and cold weather and how to best take care of your furry friend during the cold season!

Brown and white dog in a snowy field - how cold is too cold for dogs? dog freezing

Many dog breeds are highly affected by the freezing temperatures typical of the winter months. But do you know how cold is too cold for dogs? Your dog might be able to withstand the cold well – or may fall into one of the breed categories that is especially sensitive to cold and needs to be protected. Find out how cold is too cold for your dog so you can safely enjoy winter with your fluffy family. You might also want to check out our additional tips for keeping dogs healthy and safe during winter.

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How cold is too cold for dogs?

There is no one answer; different dogs tolerate cold temperatures differently.

A dog’s ability to withstand the cold depends on many factors, such as breed, size, body fat, fur, health and medical condition, and whether they are an indoor or outdoor dog

Some dogs love snow and cold weather, while others get cold very easily and can not stay outside in the cold for very long.

As a general rule of thumb:

  • at 45°F (7°Cand below, most dogs will dogs will start to become uncomfortable
  • at 32°F (0°C) and below, small, thin-coated, young, old and sick dogs should not be left outside for long
  • at 20°F (-7°C) and below, dogs become vulnerable to hypothermia and frostbite1

Which dogs are sensitive to cold weather?

Dog breed and health are big factors when it comes to risk of freezing.  The following dogs are considered especially sensitive to cold temperatures. In other words, we need to take extra care of these vulnerable dogs and make sure they keep warm in the cold winter months:

  • small dogs
  • short-haired and hairless dogs
  • puppies
  • old dogs
  • indoors ‘pet’ dogs
  • dogs with a medical or heart condition
  • dogs with arthritis and joint problems
  • Doberman, Boxer or Greyhounds

To some degree, all dogs are vulnerable to the cold. Paws, nose, ears and the stomach region are generally unprotected and therefore quite sensitive in all dogs. Make sure your dog’s paws are properly maintained, for example, by applying Vaseline before going for a short walk outside and by removing the dirt when returning home.

In general, you can use your dog’s size to determine how cold is too cold for them, using the graphic below:

how cold is too cold for dogs infographic

Signs that your dog is too cold

As soon as your dog begins to tremble, they are already too cold. When your dog starts to freeze or become too cold, they may:

  • feel unwell, tremble and walk slowly
  • take a cramped posture
  • cuddle on your leg or on another heat source

Be careful not to leave your dog outside in cold temperatures for too long, otherwise they may catch a cold.

🌡️ Good to know: A dog’s normal body temperature is anywhere from 99.5 to 102.5°F (38.3 to 39.2°C).

Signs that your dog has a cold:

Yes, dogs can catch colds, just like us! Dogs who have caught a cold thanks to cold weather exposure will often show the following signs:

  • runny nose or congestion
  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • fever
  • watery eyes
  • listlessness

While these symptoms may indicate your dog has the canine cold virus, they could also indicate a more serious condition, such as dog flu (influenza), bronchitis, parainfluenza, or distemper². Be on the look-out if your dog displays these symptoms after being in the cold, and take your dog to the vet if you suspect they are sick.

⚠️ Additionally, if your dog is not properly dried and has been lying on cold ground, they may get a lung or bladder infection. Dry your dog thoroughly after being outside in the cold weather so they can quickly get back to their normal body temperature.

Hypothermia in dogs

If your dog is exposed to low temperatures for longer periods of time, they could also suffer from hypothermia. This can be experienced locally, for example, freezing ears or paws. An overall hypothermia of the body can cause deep organ damage and even be deadly. Signs of severe hypothermia include tight and dilated pupils, difficulty in breathing and even coma.

How to keep dogs warm in winter 

To keep dogs warm in winter and protect them from cold or freezing, we recommend the following:

  • Limit the time your dog has to spend outdoors in winter’s cold temperatures.
  • Keep dogs who are sensitive to cold indoors, except for short potty breaks.
  • Equip your dog with a weatherproof dog jacket for winter or suitable dog boots.
  • Keep walks short, and keep your furry friend moving.
  • Dry your dog as soon as possible, in case they get wet in cold temperatures.
  • Make sure your dog has a warm, clean, and cozy place to sleep.

And lastly, most important of all…

Don’t let your dog get lost in the cold

Let’s not forget; many dogs will run away at the first chance they get. Puppies, young dogs, untrained dogs, or frightened dogs are very likely to bolt and leave you worried for their well-being. If your dog is lost in cold or freezing temperatures, this can be an especially dangerous situation. 

Therefore we’d recommend using both a microchip and GPS dog tracker on your dog at all times, so you’ll always be able to find and retrieve them in case they run away.

📍 Remember: a microchip will help to identify your dog in case someone finds them, but a GPS tracker allows you to follow the location of your dog in real time.

Thus, a GPS tracker can be a life-saver in case your dog ever gets lost in cold temperatures. Read Bailey the Beagle’s story here:

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While some dogs are well-equipped for winter, others are very sensitive to the cold and should be kept indoors as much as possible during winter months. Movement is important for all breeds especially in the cold season, as it helps our little friends stay warm and get rid of the fat throughout the season. When the outside temperatures drop, your dog walks should be short and it’s best to keep your furry friend moving. Consider getting a dog winter jacket or boots to protect against frostbite, dirt, and cold and make the outdoors more pleasant for your dog. Before and after being out, practice special paw care for your dog. And remember to make sure they’re dry, warm and cozy as soon as you’re home.

More tips for caring for dogs in winter

The Tractive blog is a great resource for learning how to best care for your furry friend. For more information about caring for dogs in winter, check out these articles:

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