How cold is too cold for your dog to be left outside?

Whenever winter comes, dog owners might ask themselves a very important question: How cold is too cold to leave my dog outside? The answer is a bit complicated; however, some tips below may be helpful for you to figure it out.

Dogs are individual and all of them aren’t created equal.

Their ability to tolerate really cold weather depends on many factors such as age, nutritional status, health and coat type.

Normally, puppies that are under 8 weeks of age cannot tolerate the deep cold at all even if they are the double-coated breeds. Like the very young, the very old and the sick are also not able to regulate their body temperatures in comparison to healthy ones in the prime of their lives and therefore they need greater care and protection from the cold.

Size and weight need to be keep in mind too. The smaller your pup is, the larger surface to volume ratio he has (in other words, the more skin he has through which to lose heat). Thus, if all other things are equal, smaller dogs are likely to get colder than huge ones. And because body fat is a good insulator, thinner puppies cannot tolerate cold weather as well as their heftier counterparts. But do not take it wrong by fattening up your dog during the winter months in order to protect them from the cold as it’s a misguided attempt and the heath risks of being overweight by far outweigh any benefits.

Speaking of coat density, here some useful information to consider:

  • Giant fuzzy beast: The northern breeds with thick, double-layered coats such as Malamute, Husky, Samoyed, heavy German Shepherd, Newfoundland, Bernese Mountain Dog, Great Pyrenees… were born and raised outside so they tend to be the most cold-tolerant. Compared to other breeds, they have anatomical, physiological and behavioral attributes that allow them to thrive in severely cold weather. Though, there is one fact that far more dogs die in weather that is too hot than too cold. That is to say, those with the thick undercoat do the best when it is frigid but may suffer in boiling hot weather. So regular grooming is really important for your giant furry dog in summer to keep him healthy. Instead of looking around for a good local groomer and spend on professional grooming services, home grooming can be a daunting but bonding experience with your pet. In order to make the trimming process as easy as possible and painless for both you and your puppy, you should choose a high-quality pair of dog grooming clippers.
  • Thin-haired dog: Skinny thin-haired dog should be kept inside when it is cold enough (usually when it gets below 40-45F) that you wouldn’t be happy out there wearing a coat any thicker than what your puppy is having on. About those are still thin-skinned but solid, you should bring them in when it’s cold enough that you wouldn’t be happy wearing your heavy winter coat (when it stays below 32F)

 

Not all temperatures are equal.

For example, your thermometer might say it is 40F outside, but only by watching daily weather forecast can you also know what the wind chill is. That means, the degree that it registers on a thermometer isn’t only the environmental factor that affects how your dogs really feel the cold. A wind chill is a brisk breeze but can quickly cut through a dog’s fur and significantly decreases its ability to insulate and protect against cold temperatures. Dampness with various forms such as rain, wet snow, heavy fog or simply going for a swim which soaks through the coat can quickly chill a dog even if the weather is not that cold. It tends to feel colder on cloudy days than sunny days because dogs cannot soak up the sun and warm themselves. In case the temperature is quite low but if your dogs are exercising while outside, they may generate enough extra body heat that can keep them feel comfortable.

Cold weather guidelines for your dogs

Regardless of your dog breed, once temperatures fall below 20F, you should be aware that your dogs could potentially suffer from cold-associated health problems like hypothermia and frostbite. That’s when the body is no longer able to sustain normal temperature after prolonged exposure to dangerously cold temperatures. The symptoms can range from weakness, shivering to inaudible heartbeat and trouble with breathing, depending on severity. If unfortunately, you notice your pet having strange behavior like shivering, acting anxious, whining, slowing down, searching for warm locations. Holding up one or more paws… immediately head him inside to a warmer area, cover him with blankets or towels. You can use electric heat source but don’t forget to put several layers between your pet and heating pads so he won’t get burned.

As usual, let your common sense be your guide. More than that, you’d better make sure, when winter comes, your puppy has access to a proper shelter which is constructed of solid wood or other weather resistant material with solid walls on all four sides, a dry floor and a solid roof like a tarp-covered crate or a garage to protect him from any kinds of severe weather condition including extreme cold. It’s also better to care about his nutritional diet by buying a bowl that has a self-heating element, along with high-quality water and high-energy food. Last but not least, let your pet’s behavior be your guide since if your dog feels too cold, he will let you know. So just simply watch his signs and remember that you are his best advocate-when in doubt, follow your heart.

Hope you can keep your dog healthy during winter months with some tips above.