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Vet Tech Rounds: How Cold is too Cold for Dogs?

Vet Talks 3 min read
Vet Tech Rounds: How Cold is too Cold for Dogs?

Clients often ask “How cold is too cold for dogs to be outside?” There is no simple answer to this. Every dog is different. Therefore it is essential to consider the following factors before you plan your dog’s winter adventures.

In this issue of Vet Tech Rounds, I will share the different factors that can influence how well your pup can tolerate the cold.

Size of Dog – Larger Dogs are able to withstand cold temperatures better

In general, larger dogs have a higher percentage of body fat, which helps to insulate from the cold. There are obvious exceptions to this, with breeds such as greyhounds and other sighthounds.

dogs playing in the snow

Coat type – different coat types can influence how well they tolerate the cold

Hairless and smooth-coated dogs have much less protection from the elements vs. dogs with a thicker coat

Your pup’s coat type will also influence how well they tolerate the cold. There are a number of different coat types in dogs – Smooth coat, long coat, wire coat, curly coat, double coat, and hairless.

Hairless and smooth-coated dogs have much less protection from the elements vs. dogs with a thicker coat, such as a double coat. Smooth-coated dogs include:

  • Bulldogs
  • Dachshunds
  • Weimaraners
  • Grey hounds
  • Doberman pinschers

A double coat is when a dog has a thicker outer layer of hair, with a soft, downy layer near the skin. Many of these breeds originate in cold climates and are very well equipped for the cold. Double coated dogs include:

  • Huskies
  • Malamutes
  • German shepherds
  • Labradors

Acclimatization of your dog to cold weather

Over time, dogs become used to certain climates. If you and your pup have moved from a warmer climate to a cold one, it may take some time to adjust to the new temperatures, even if he is a double-coated breed.

Dog licking in snow

No dog should ever be left out in the cold without shelter. This includes large, double coated dogs.

Smaller dogs should be monitored at all times in the cold and should be brought in when they begin to show signs of discomfort. This may include shivering and reluctance to place their paws on the ground.

Smooth coated dogs often appreciate a coat or sweater in the winter months to help them with insulation. In wet weather, it is important that this garment be waterproof to avoid leaving moisture in contact with your dog’s skin.

In extreme temperatures, you may also consider a set of booties for your pup to protect their feet. Dogs’ feet are built to withstand colder temperatures than ours, but they can also reach their limit.

Natural Support for dogs in the winter

NHV Winter Essentials Kit includes three products that can significantly contribute to your dog’s health in the winter.

NHV winter care kit

Yucca extract is known for its discomfort relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.

Old Timer is excellent support for the hip and joints. The name may suggest that it is for older pets, but it really is useful for pets of all ages in the winter. It helps support stiff joints and aids movement.

The ointment in this kit is especially useful for their paw pads that face some wear and tear from the snow, ice-salt, and dryness. You can even massage it gently on their sore limbs to relieve discomfort and promote recovery after outdoor activity.

Every dog is different. You will have to watch your dog and assess their behavior in the cold.

If your dog loves to romp and play in the snow, they’re likely very comfortable. But don’t let them overdo it. If your pup is shivering and reluctant to walk around, they probably would rather cuddle up on the couch.

how cold is too cold for dogs

If you want to talk to a Pet Expert about your pet’s health, just send us your message here and we will be more than happy to help make winter a fun, safe, and healthy season for your pet.

Johanna RVT

Johanna RVT

Johanna is NHV’s in house Registered Veterinary Technician. Technicians are the veterinary equivalent of a human nurse. Johanna has over 10 years of experience in different types of veterinary clinics and hospitals. She has seen and assisted in the treatment of a variety of medical conditions and injuries. She will share her experiences in her monthly blog series “Vet Tech Rounds” to help our extended NHV family learn about common preventable medical cases and other interesting stories of vet clinic life.

Published: January 18, 2019

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