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Most people tend to think that dogs tolerate cold better than humans since they are furry creatures. Unfortunately, their fur coats do not protect them completely during the harsh cold. Yes, you read that right: pups are just as sensitive as people when temperatures drop! For instance, when temperatures drop below 50°F (10°C), small to medium-sized dogs start to feel the freezing weather. In contrast, larger dogs can tolerate temperatures up to 40°F (4.4°C). 

What factors should be taken into account to decide how cold is too cold for your dog? And how should you take care of your dog during during cold weather?  

Dog Breeds Best Suited for Cold Weather:

All dogs are not created equal. It is therefore important to take into account the breed of your dog. If you live in a cold climate, it is better to adopt a dog that is better suited for this kind of weather.  

The following breeds fare better in cold weather as compared to other breeds: 
Akita Inu, Alaskan Malamute, Bernese Mountain Dog, Great Pyrenees, Samoyed, Siberian Husky, Tibetan Mastiff, Chow Chow, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Bouvier des Flandres, Bearded Collie, Black Russian Terrier, Old English Sheepdog, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Shiba Inu, American Eskimo Dog.

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Each and every dog is different: 

Every dog is unique his/her own way, and a weather that might feel great to one dog might send another in search of shelter. 

Here is a list of variables that affect how dogs respond to the cold: 

  • Coat type:

Dogs such as Siberian Huskies and Samoyeds tolerate the cold the most since they have thick, double-layered coats. These kinds of breeds have evolved in Northern climates and thus have the ability to thrive even when it’s frigid. Their coat is able to repel water and snow, as well as better insulate their body. In contrast, dogs who have exceptionally thin coats, such as Greyhounds and Xoloitzcuintli, suffer the most in cold weather. 

  • Coat Color:

On a cloudless day, black, brown or dark-coated dogs absorb a good amount of heat from sunlight, keeping them warmer in comparison to light-coated dog breeds. 

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  • Size:

Did you know that small dogs get colder faster as compared to larger dogs? That’s because small dogs have a larger surface area to volume ratio. This means that they have more skin (in relation to their “insides”) through which they lose heat. 

  • Weight:

The thinner the dog, the quicker they get cold. That is because they have less body fat (so less protection). While body fat is a good insulator, this doesn’t mean that you should fatten up your dog during the cold months of the year in order to protect them!

  • Conditioning:

Dogs who are used to cold temperatures tolerate the cold much better than those that are used to sitting in warmth all year long. 

  • Age and Health:

Young pups, as well as older and sick dogs, are more fragile to a drop in temperature in comparison to healthy dogs that are in the prime of their lives. This is because they cannot regulate their body temperature as effectively. Therefore, they need greater protection from the cold, and it is recommended to avoid letting your dog spend time outdoors when the temperature falls to 20 °F (-6.6 °C) or less. That is because low temperatures can cause frostbite, paw injuries, and hypothermia. 

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Does your dog feel cold at night?

If you leave your dog to sleep in their outdoor den during a cold night, then yes they do feel cold. They will shiver all night long, and will suffer from hypothermia! It will be better if you let your furry companion sleep indoors when temperatures drop. It is considered a cruel act to leave your dog sleep outside in the bitter cold, and you should be avoiding it at all costs, especially if your dog is from a breed that cannot tolerate low temperatures.

How to care for your dog during winter?

Even though dogs have fur, it is not enough to help them survive extremely cold weather. Dogs should never stay outdoors for long periods of time when the temperatures are low.
Here are a few things that you can do to better protect your dog during winter:

  • Provide your dog with plenty of warm blankets and pillows to sleep on. 
  • Avoid walking them on snow, slush, or water as much as possible, since this may lead to a foot injury. 
  • Groom your dog regularly to keep the coat healthy. This is especially important for long-haired dogs, who tend to get their hair matted and dirty. Brushing your dog regularly will help to keep them well-insulated. 
  • Provide your dog with fresh, clean water every day. 

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Does your dog need to wear a sweater or coat to go outside?

Generally, when temperatures are above 45 °F (7 °C), it is not necessary for your dog to wear any kind of sweater or coat. But this really depends on each and every dog. As explained above, some dogs can tolerate cold weather better than other dogs, depending on several factors such as size, coat-type, health and age. For example: 

  • dogs with fine hair and thin body types, like greyhounds and whippets, will need a coat to go outside during cold weather. 
  • Small dogs, like chihuahuas and yorkshires, will need a coat when going out for a walk or for playtime. They can’t create the same amount of body heat like larger dogs, and their bellies have a greater chance of brushing against the snow.
  • Older dogs with a weak immune system or arthritis will definitely need a sweater or coat since it will keep them warm and protect their joints. 

Most importantly, watch how your dog behaves, and if you notice that your dog is shivering outside, even if it is 60 °F (15.5 °C), then wearing a sweater or a coat is not such a bad idea after all. It will provide them with extra protection and comfort.

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Does your dog need to wear boots to play outside?

It is not necessary to make your dog wear boots, since they are not accustomed to walking in them. 
However, there are a few exceptions: 

  • If your pup has an injury, it will definitely need to be protected. You should keep your dog’s cuts and scrapes clean and dry, and thus a boot on the injured paw will keep it from getting exposed to the elements. 
  • If you go on long outdoor aventures with your dog, their paws will definitely need to be protected. 
  • If harmful de-icers are used to melt snow and ice, then dog boots will come in handy since they protect your dog’s paws from these dangerous compounds.

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How do your know if your dog is too cold?

Cold dogs behave in the same way as us. Therefore, you’ll have to look out for signs such as shivering, acting anxious, whining, and slowing down. Your dog might even start searching for a warm place to hide, or start holding up one or more paws. You’ll know then that it’s time for you to head inside and warm up!

To conclude, you’ll have to keep an eye on your dog when temperatures are low, especially below 45 °F (7 °C), that is when some cold-averse dogs start feeling uncomfortable. Take care of your dog and make sure that they have the appropriate protection for your outdoor adventures! 

If you’d like to read more about dogs, check out our Dog Blog by clicking here.

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