Winter does not have to put a damper on you and your dog’s activities, but how do you know when it is too cold outside? There are a variety of factors that influence when it is too cold to walk your dogs, but here are some general guidelines.
What type and length of fur your dog has can impact how tolerant to cold he is. Short haired or shaved dogs have less fur to protect them from the cold and wind, so they do not tolerate winter walks as well. For shorter haired dogs, do not walk them outside when the temperature is below freezing (32 degrees fahrenheit) without a coat or sweater. Long and thick haired dogs are more tolerant to the cold. These dogs can handle walks outside in the cold, but these walks should be kept short.
Size and body condition
Small dogs tend to have a harder time adjusting to the cold. This is because they are closer to the ground and generally have short hair. These dogs should not be walked outside in temperatures below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, even with a sweater or coat. Larger dogs are higher off the ground and tend to have more healthy body fat compared to smaller dogs. This helps larger dogs be more tolerant to the cold. Body condition is also an important factor in determining how cold is too cold. Fat helps insulate the body and keep your dog warm. Many dogs, particularly hunting dogs, have fat under their skin. This is why labs can jump into freezing lakes. For this reason, dogs who are underweight should not be outside for extended periods of time in the cold.
Many health conditions impact how your dog will react to the cold. Dogs with arthritis or dogs with hip dysplasia should only be walked for short periods of time when the temperature is below 40 degrees fahrenheit. The cold tends to exacerbate these conditions and will make your dog extra sore and grumpy. Other health conditions, like thyroid issues, affect your dog’s ability to regulate his body temperature. Dogs with these conditions should not be walked for long periods of time in the cold. Talk to your vet to see if any health conditions your dog has can be impacted by the cold.
There are a variety of factors to consider when deciding how cold is too cold to walk your dog. In general, use caution when the temperature is below freezing. Keep walks short and brisk to help prevent your dog from getting too cold. Always be aware of other winter weather dangers, such as ice and sidewalk salt. For more information on sidewalk salt, see our previous blog post.