How Cold is Too Cold for Your Dog?
Freezing temperatures are upon us, which means it's best to take extra care when taking your dogs outside. While they may not seem to mind being outdoors in cold weather all that much, if it's uncomfortable for you, it's uncomfortable for them. Most dogs, however, still need to be outside for exercise and to be able to do their “business.” Here are some tips on how to recognize dangerous weather conditions and how to prepare your pup as best as possible.
Weather considered “too cold” can depend on a few factors, including your dog’s breed, weight, age, and health history. A good rule of thumb, though, is to limit your time outdoors when the temperature hits 15° and below. Negative temperatures are extremely dangerous and should be avoided when possible. And if it is raining or snowing, conditions will likely be worse than expected. A great way to limit your outside time is to go out for shorter potty breaks more frequently, rather than longer walks.
Breeds and Weight: Medium to large-sized breeds are less at risk for hypothermia than small breeds, because small breeds are much closer to the ground and generally have less muscle/fat to keep them warm. Northern breeds with thicker coats and other breeds that are more acclimated to cold weather are less at risk for hypothermia.
Age and Health: Senior dogs are also at high risk for injury or hypothermia in cold weather. As senior dogs commonly develop joint issues like arthritis, the cold weather can stiffen their joints, making it harder for them to keep moving to regulate body temperature. Dogs with diabetes, heart complications, kidney complications, or Cushing’s or Addison’s disease will also have a much harder time regulating their body temperature. Fish oil is a great winter supplement for joint support and overall health for this population.
Regardless of breed, weight, age, and health, however, it is never a bad idea to limit outdoor time and to suit up your pup with a jacket or sweater and booties, which will help them stay as warm as possible. If your dog doesn’t like jackets and booties, be sure to thoroughly dry them off if it is raining or snowing and wipe down their paws with a cloth and warm water to wash away sand or ice melt.
Still, the weather can be tricky to judge, so it might be hard to tell if it really is too cold for your dog. A good rule of thumb to follow is: If it's too cold for you, it's too cold for your dog. In any case, always use your best judgement by keeping a close eye on them while outside; they will tell/show you how the cold weather is making them feel by shivering, refusing to walk or do their business, etc. If you suspect that your dog is in danger of hypothermia, look out for these signs: shivering, weakness, irregular heartbeat, and trouble breathing.
And don’t forget about the cats! While most of us aren’t taking our indoor cats outside for walks, be sure to keep an eye out for feral and stray cats looking for warmth. A common place for them and other small animals to hide is underneath cars, including hoods and wheel wells. Before getting into your car, peek underneath it and tap the hood to scare away any hiding animal.
Check out our blog on how to best protect your pets in the winter for more tips and our top recommended winter must-haves.
- Vanessa Rances