We are all aware that going outside to play with our dogs is a fantastic opportunity to bond with them and burn off some energy. So we ask the question how cold is too cold for dogs. Is it too chilly to go outside and play during the winter months?
Dogs become cold in the same way that we do. They are not able to keep warm without a thick fur coat, therefore they are likely to become cold outside. Some dogs, such as Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies, are bred specifically for working in cold weather.
Other dogs, particularly those who are little or have thin coats (such as Chihuahuas or Greyhounds), need to be sheltered from the cold.
How Cold is too Cold?
People frequently ask, “When is it too chilly to take my dog for a walk?” It varies depending on the pet’s condition, hair coat, amount of activity, and how long the dog is required to be outside for. In this situation, it makes sense not to just let the unconditioned dog outside to spend hours in the backyard, but rather go for a walk on an appropriately prepared route.
Many dogs will eliminate outdoors a lot rapidly if they have access to a clear walk area that has been shoveled. This is especially critical for dogs who have back or neck concerns, as well as dogs who have lameness issues, or any small dog.
The majority of dogs who are outside with you will show signs of being cold. They are indicating that they would prefer to be somewhere else rather than outside by shivering or raising a leg. The dog who is racing about in circles, looking for deer feces, or chasing a ball is having a good time outside.
All Temperatures aren’t Created Equal
Instead of simply looking at the thermometer and making a decision based on the reading it displays, consider the following factors before making your final decision. You should consider the wind chill factor, precipitation (including fog and general wetness), and whether it is a sunny or gloomy day.
In addition to making a cold day appear much worse, all of these can severely restrict your dog’s ability to stay warm. It is also important to consider a dog’s energy and activity level; for example, if your pup enjoys zooming about the yard so quickly that you can barely keep up with her, she will likely be able to get her blood circulating far more easily than a sluggish dog that prefers to sit in one spot.
Winter Health Risks for Dogs
Cold weather can have a negative impact on your family pet in ways that you might not expect. Now, let’s have a look at some of the problems that can occur or be aggravated as a result of cold temperatures.
Frostbite in Dogs
Frostbite is most commonly found on the paws and is caused by ice balls forming on the skin. The sweat glands in a dog’s paw emit moisture, which can freeze in colder weather, resulting in the formation of ice balls. They can cause your dog to limp or hop; long, frequent walking could cause a dog’s foot to bruise or be injured.
Be on the lookout for frostbite on the tails and ears as well. They will become pale and may even harden as a result.
Arthritis affects older dogs just like it affects humans. Arthritis is more visible in the winter months because of the lower temperatures. Joints become stiffer and lose their ability to move freely. You may need to reduce the number of long walks you take with your pet, allow him or her to spend more time indoors, or visit your veterinarian for proper therapy.
Hypothermia in Dogs
When a dog’s body temperature reaches a particular point, hypothermia begins to set in. The severity of hypothermia depends on the temperature and length of the cold weather. Mild hypothermia is more common than moderate hypothermia.
This illness can cause changes in blood flow, heart rate, and respiration, as well as loss of consciousness and death in severe cases. Weakness, shivering, lack of focus, muscle stiffness, and shallow breathing are some of the signs and symptoms. If you feel your dog is suffering from even a moderate case of hypothermia, you should visit your veterinarian right away.
Amenities and Unwanted Guests
Dogs with outdoor shelters, beds, and blankets tend to cope better with cold weather. In the event that you have no option but to leave your dog outside in temperatures as low as 39°F, providing him with some form of shelter will allow him to remain comfortable for at least a short period of time.
Of course, an insulted doghouse isn’t as comfy as a climate-controlled human home, or even a garage with a towel or pillow. But truly, whatever luxury you can afford is preferable to leaving Muffin alone in the backyard!
However, dog-friendly amenities tend to attract non-canine guests. It’s no secret that cold weather encourages wild creatures to seek refuge. Your dog may try to seek shelter in his doghouse one afternoon only to discover it inhabited by a raccoon or opossum!
Fights between dogs and wild animals can become extremely unpleasant very quickly. Invaders should be evicted from your dog’s territory immediately to avoid any ugly outcome.
How to Keep a Dog Warm in Winter
There are a number of tips and tricks you can use to keep your pet safe during the winter months.
Fine coat of hair and fine skin Dogs such as Greyhounds and Whippets are well-suited to wearing clothing, and they may prefer a coat with a neck warmer if the temperature is below 32 degrees when walking or even 45 degrees when standing still outside in cold weather.
Small dogs (those weighing less than 30 pounds) may like to wear a coat. Some dogs seem to love the attention of being dressed up. A coat can be handy in cold weather if a long-haired dog has a recent haircut.
Extra clothing may cause a Siberian Husky or Alaskan Malamute to overheat. Outside, sled dog competitors may wear a coat but not when running. Dogs, unlike horses and humans, do not sweat and so do not cool after activity.
Limit Outdoor Time
You should limit the amount of time your dog spends outside as the weather lowers, especially if you are experiencing high wind chill, heavy rain, or snow. Make an effort to go for your daily walk(s) during the daylight while the sun is shining brightly.
Place a towel by the front door, so that when you get home, you may clean wet paws or any mud or moisture that may have accumulated.
Even in the winter, when it’s not particularly hot outside, pets and people can still become dehydrated. For hikes, always bring a bottle of water with you, and make sure your pet is getting adequate water both inside and outside (and that their water bowl does not freeze over!).
To evaluate your pet for dehydration, you can gently grasp a little piece of your pet’s loose skin on the back and sides of their neck. It indicates that your dog is hydrated if the skin jumps back into place.
If not, it is imperative that they consume water as soon as possible. You can also look at their gums to see if they’re hydrated and a vibrant pink color, which indicates good health.
Get Dog Booties
Your dog may feel uncomfortable in the boots, and this may interfere with his ability to enjoy outside activities such as playing or going pee. However, there are a few exceptions.
If your dog is injured, it will need to be kept safe while the injury heals. Cuts and scrapes should be kept clean and dry, and a boot placed on the afflicted paw or leg will prevent it from becoming exposed to the elements while healing.
If you reside in an area where de-icing agents are used to melt snow and ice, boots will keep your dog’s paws safe from injury from the chemicals. Some of these substances will burn the paws of a pet and can be harmful if swallowed by the pet.
Check with your neighborhood to see which pet-friendly de-icers they are using, and always wipe your dog’s paws down after taking him outside in the winter.
If you are an outdoor enthusiast and you take your dogs on extended outdoor activities with you, their paws may require some additional care and attention.
Regularly Moisturize Your Pet’s Dry Winter Skin
Dogs and cats, like us humans, can suffer from dry skin in the winter, especially if they are confined indoors as the temperatures drop below freezing. Fortunately, maintaining dry skin is a rather simple process. You don’t have to bathe your pet very often, but if you must, using a calming oatmeal shampoo can help to alleviate the itch and irritation.
Another home cure to try is applying coconut oil to your dog’s coat. Most importantly, utilize a humidifier throughout your home to raise the humidity level in the air (your skin will thank you for this, too!).