How cold is TOO cold for your pet? Expert tips on winter dog care

March 15, 2024

How cold is too cold for doing outside activities with your dogs?

Hi, I’m Dr. Sean McPeck. I am the owner and CEO of Tier 1 Veterinary Medical Center. A lot of variables come into play here. One is the breed of the dog. Our northern breeds do a lot better. Those Huskies, malamute, etc. even the dogs that are a little bit larger, have some excess of fur on them. Our Pyrenees and Newfoundland and even the Bernese Mountain Dogs do very well.

When we start to get some of our shorter haired breeds like our Vizslas and Weimaraners and German Shorthaired pointers, obviously they don’t have the protection that’s there and they become colder much faster. The other thing that comes into play is whether or not you’re using any type of clothing. Are you using a vest? Are you using a full jacket? Are you using booties on your dogs? It’s one of the biggest things we see is not only the ear tips of the dogs and cats getting frostbitten but we also see paw pad injuries, too. And one of the big signs that you can see just paying attention to the behavior, the body language of your dog is: are they shivering? One.

Number two is lifting up the paws. They will alternate, putting the paws down as they get cold and trying to escape the contact of that cold from the ice or the snow. That’s a great indicator that, hey, we need to get our dog warm and get them out of the elements. One of the other things that we see is some of our silky haired breed dogs, like our Springer Spaniels, for example, that hair is very prone to getting compact balls of ice up underneath the armpits and the groin, and it can become so obstructive that they become immobilized.

Had many cases where people have heard their dogs yelping in the distance and they track down and find them just stuck. So being aware of that, breaking those down, if you’re out snowshoeing or hiking in the wintertime, carrying a pair of booties with you in case you do get out there a ways and now your dog is starting to get really cold. Carrying a vest or putting one on them. Ultimately, you may have to carry them home. And that can be pretty tough if you’ve got a big dog.

Yeah, and another aspect of winter weather. How long can I leave my dog outside? Again, dependent on wind chill, depending on temperature, depending on the breed of the dog. And so kind of a gauge is when you go outside, if you feel that bite on your skin from the cold weather, then you probably don’t want to leave them out very long, letting them out 10 to 15 minutes to go to the bathroom, move around, great. But as they become sedentary and they sit on that porch or they sit out on that lawn, when you’re not actively moving, that’s when they can really start to succumb to some of those cold weather injuries. Without any wind. -20 is where I would start to consider drawing the line of not leaving them out for extended period of time.

But again, it’s breed dependent. Some breeds do great outside and we even see the mushers up here with their dogs. They curl up in a ball and they have a whole winter sheet of snow will cover them as they are resting in the snow and do great. But I wouldn’t recommend that for a lot of the short-haired breed dogs and even your smaller dogs, right?

The smaller the body mass, the faster they succumb to those cold weather injuries as they dump heat and take on cold. Obviously, as the bigger mass of the dog, it’s good that they’re going be able to withstand that a little bit longer. Yeah, Some of the other variables that come into play with your dog being outside is do you have any shelter for them out there?

Do they have a a dog house or some type of a shelter? Obviously, being insulated is a lot better. Having some type of bedding in there is going to be very important for providing that insulation from the ground, just sucking the heat out of their body. Do you have any type of heat source for them? So those are different things that come into play when we’re talking about having our dogs outside during the winter months.

I highly recommend you approach it with caution and observe your dog, making sure they are not getting too cold and making sure they have ample calories. If this is an outdoor dog that you are keeping outside a lot, making sure they have that caloric intake to keep that internal fire burning and keeping that body warm. If you enjoyed the video, hit the like button and leave a comment.

Do you leave your dog outside? What type of winter sports are you doing with your dog? What type of breed do you have that enjoys the outdoor winter activities and subscribe if you want future content. Thanks.