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While taking your dog for a walk can be very enjoyable on a breezy summer day, you might not feel eager to grab their leash when the temperature drops.
Especially during the winter, you might have to contend with snow, sleet, ice, and other unpleasant weather conditions. Even a short walk can be tough when trying your best not to slip on the sidewalk or get your shoes soaked.
When faced with freezing weather, you might wonder if taking your dog outside with you is safe. Their coat might seem too thin to protect them from chilly winter wind, and they can’t exactly tell you if they’re feeling a little too cold.
Fortunately, with a bit of research, you can figure out when it’s safe to take your dog for a walk and when you should wait for the forecast to clear up. Read on to find out how your pup handles cold weather and what you can do to help.
If you’re trying to figure out the lowest temperature you can safely take your dog for a walk, the answer depends on a few factors.
Not all dogs can deal with cold weather in the same way. Besides the noticeable differences in breed and origins, your pup might be unusually resistant to chilly temperatures, or they might not care for cold weather at all.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but you should keep a couple of things in mind when deciding whether your dog should accompany you out the door.
First, most dogs will be fine in temperatures above 45 degrees Fahrenheit. As temperatures drop toward freezing, you should consider whether your dog is unusually vulnerable to the cold. If so, you’ll probably want to keep them inside.
Below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, your dog may experience health problems such as frostbite, especially over long periods. Pay close attention to their behavior and keep any walks brief and fast-paced.
Second, take a look at the sky. Clear weather is generally safer, even as temperatures drop. Snow, rain, or other precipitation might severely chill your dog in a short time, regardless of the air temperature. When their fur is wet, it takes much more energy to keep them warm.
In some cases, high winds or heavy cloud cover can also leave your dog uncomfortably cold. If you’d like to stay on the safe side, we recommend waiting for sunny, calm weather before taking a walk in cold climates.
Some dogs are better suited for cold weather than others. While the breed isn’t the only factor, remember that your dog may have evolved to deal with specific temperatures and struggle when they’re out of their comfort zone.
Nearly every dog has a natural body temperature of 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Some variation is normal, but your pup should always stay within a degree of this temperature to stay happy and healthy.
However, some dogs can regulate their temperature and keep themselves warm much easier than others. Here are some of the most important considerations regarding your dog and their resistance to cold weather.
You might have noticed that your small dog shivers when they step outside on a windy day. On the other hand, your large dog might love running and playing in the snow for hours.
Small dogs generally have less muscle and fat to insulate and shield them from the cold. They also have a smaller mass relative to their surface area, meaning they lose heat more quickly than their larger counterparts.
If you have a tiny dog, you should pay careful attention to them in cold temperatures and always have a quick way to warm them up if necessary — even if it’s just wrapping them up in your jacket.
Large dogs typically maintain their core body temperature for extended periods, even in cold weather. However, this doesn’t mean you can leave them in the yard during a snowstorm. They still need opportunities to warm up and recover from long periods spent in the cold.
Some breeds are susceptible to the cold, while others avoid hot temperatures whenever possible. One of the most important factors is your dog’s coat, which determines how effectively they trap and maintain body heat.
Dogs such as Siberian Huskies can endure freezing temperatures due to their thick coat of fur, which has two layers of insulation: a dense undercoat and a fluffy outer layer. If your dog’s breed originated in extreme climates with harsh winters, they’ll probably be fine with a brisk walk on a chilly day.
On the other hand, small breeds with short coats will often suffer the most in even mildly cold temperatures. Dogs such as Chihuahuas have only a single layer of thin fur, which isn’t sufficient to protect them from the elements for long periods.
Your dog’s unique behavior and history can also contribute to how well they handle the cold. For example, many health problems will cause an increased vulnerability to extreme temperatures. If your dog suffers from a chronic disease, you may wish to take special care when exposing them to the cold.
On the other hand, young and healthy dogs with strong immune systems can often handle slightly colder temperatures. If you keep your walks fast-paced and throw a ball or stick for your pup, you’ll keep their blood pumping and allow them to burn off some energy before you head back inside.
To keep your dog healthy and active in cold temperatures, pick a dog food that has a high protein content and the immune support your pup needs to fight off illness. We recommend feeding your dog a nutritious meal before heading out for a walk in the cold. The added vitamins and antioxidants will support your pup’s immune system, and our healthy GMO-free ingredients will keep their coat healthy and thick through the winter.
If you’re taking your dog for a stroll in unusually cold temperatures, monitoring them closely for any signs of discomfort is important.
At low enough temperatures, your dog can contract hypothermia — a serious condition that can cause a rapid health decline as your dog’s core temperature drops.
With that in mind, here are the most common symptoms of hypothermia in dogs:
As long as you stay vigilant, any mild cases of hypothermia can be quickly addressed by covering your dog, bringing them to a warm location, and giving them a chance to return to their normal body heat.
It’s important to get them out of the cold as soon as possible since severe cases of hypothermia will need to be addressed by a vet. If your dog is experiencing significant distress or not improving after a few minutes of warmth, you should take them to a vet immediately.
Even in frigid weather, you can take a few simple steps to maintain your dog’s body heat.
The simplest way to protect your dog is to keep your walks brief. You can go for longer strolls when temperatures improve, but in winter weather, you might have to limit your dog’s outdoor time. Never leave them outside in the cold without supervision.
Another excellent method is to use doggie clothes, such as sweaters, mittens, and hats. For small dogs with thin fur, a small coat can distinguish between a slightly chilly walk and a dangerously cold one.
Remember, you shouldn’t leave your dog alone in the car during cold spells. Like in hot weather, your dog can easily become uncomfortable or endangered by the extreme temperatures inside a parked car.
Finally, nutrition plays a role in your dog’s ability to metabolize energy and stay warm in cold weather. We recommend choosing healthy and nutritious food to keep your dog healthy and active when temperatures drop. Additionally, cold weather makes dogs especially vulnerable to infection and disease, making immune support even more important to your pup’s wellbeing.
At Optimeal®, we developed a collection of super premium dog foods for every size and age. Our recipes contain high levels of protein, fresh meat as a first ingredient, and no artificial preservatives or colors. All our foods are optimized for total immune system support, giving your dog the help they need to fight off bacteria and viruses.
You can purchase Optimeal® dog food at any of the stores found in our handy store locator or simply order online. We believe giving your dog the best food possible is the easiest way to support their health for years to come.
Taking your dog for a walk in cold weather isn’t always easy. You might not love trudging away through the snow and ice, but your dog will certainly appreciate the effort. As long as you ensure they stay warm and healthy, you can enjoy a pleasant walk in a winter wonderland.
How Cold Is Too Cold for Your Dog? | PetMD
Hypothermia in Dogs: How Cold is Too Cold? | American Kennel Club
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