Anyone who lives in a winter climate has to ask themself the same question each year: how cold is too cold for dogs? Your lovable pup needs exercise and needs to pee, but at some point, the weather can get too cold for their paws. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about cold weather and dogs.
Dr. Kim Smyth, a staff veterinarian with pet insurance company Petplan, created a chart based on data across multiple breeds and climates. The chart is pretty handy and easy to use: first find the outdoor temperature, then factor in the wind chill and how cold it actually feels (which your weather app will tell you), then consider your dog’s size. However cold it feels is the temp that you should find on the chart.
Green (1-2) means it’s safe to go outside; yellow (3) means you should take caution as there is a slight potential for dangerous conditions; orange (4) is dangerous and requires a lot of precautions; finally, red (5) is potentially life-threatening cold and any prolonged outdoor activity should be avoided.
Just like human health, every dog’s health is different. If your dog is acclimated to cold weather and already spends most of his/her life outside, then you can obviously be more generous with your expectations. The chart is a guideline based on averages — it’s up to you to know your own pet and what they can handle.
That being said, a quick bathroom break or five minute walk around the yard should be fine for any dog, as long as they aren’t in poor health. If you’re going to take your little friend outside in extremely cold weather, then follow these quick tips for a better experience.
Make sure YOU are warm enough to stay healthy and in control of the situation. You can’t look after a pet well without first looking out for yourself.
Bundle up your pup
Yes, some cold weather breeds like Huskies, Saint Bernards, or mountain dogs are perfectly safe to traverse cold weather ground without any protection. But smaller dogs, especially short haired dogs, need extra warmth if going outside for more than a few minutes. Puppy sweaters are cute and functional.
Protect their paws
Some dogs just refuse to wear anything on their feet, but if your dog will allow it, the very best winter walking defense is a pair of water-resistant dog booties. This way they are protected from ice, snow, salts, ice-melting chemicals, and sharp objects hidden beneath the snow. Chemical paw protectants also exist if you want to go that route; either way, when you get home, make sure to wash your dog’s paws.
Listen to your dog
How cold is too cold for dogs? They’ll often tell you in their own way. If your pup starts whimpering or pulling on the leash, trying to get back towards the door, then it’s best to return to the warmth of the home. You can always exercise your dog indoors, too.