Cold Weather Dog Care

With many areas griped with cold and snow, the question on many pet parents’ minds is when is it too cold for my dog to be outside. Before we get to the answer, let’s take a look at some factors.

Physical Factors of your Dog

Just as people, a dog’s physical appearance is different. This appearance includes coat thickness and color. Dogs with long and/or thick coats are more likely to stand for colder temperatures while those with thin coats will shiver at the first dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat color is another factor but before we get to this, let’s refresh ourselves on a bit of science.

In the summer, when one goes outside barefoot you may notice that there is a temperature difference between a sidewalk and asphalt. One reason for this is the color. White reflects the sun’s rays away from the surface. This is why a white surface feels cooler compared to other colored surfaces. On the other hand, the color black absorbs the sun’s rays and feels hot to the touch. Utilizing these simple examples, you can see that a dog with a dark colored coat would remain warmer compared to one with a white coat.

Other factors to consider include the age of the dog, activity, and size of the dog. As you have guessed, older dogs suffer from the cold more than younger dogs. This can be due to a slower metabolism and/or thinning skin. Also, dogs that have been active outside or conditioned to the environment can tolerate the cold better. Finally, the size of the dog will affect its ability to stand the cold. Small breeds due to their small mass have more skin on their sides exposed to the cold, which means they get colder quicker compared to larger breeds. Also, the amount of fat the dog has determines its cold tolerance with the assumption that larger breeds will have more fat, which acts as an insulator.

Environmental Factors

While there are factors that you control by the breed you pick as your pet, there are other factors that are not as easily controlled and affect every breed regardless if it is long-haired and breed for cold weather. This includes wind chill, dampness, and cloud cover.

As humans, we can easily relate to the concept of wind chill if you have ever gone outside in the winter when the wind was blowing. While the temperature may be above 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the wind can make it feel a lot colder. The same is true with your dog. Even a gently breeze can ruffle through your dog’s fur stealing away heat and making your dog shiver.

Another environmental factor is dampness. We have all heard the saying, “soaked to the bone.” While this is a dramatic example, moisture in the fur can also rob heat from your dog’s coat. Finally, cloud cover again is something we can relate to inside and out. We know how warm a room can get when the sun shines through a window on a winter day. Or, you are outside playing in the snow and the sun comes out. Once this happens, you begin to feel warmer. The same is true when the sun hits your dog’s coat but…… is most effective on dogs with dark colored fur.

The easiest two rules of thumb when it comes to whether you should bring your dog in or not, stems from what the temperature gauge says along with what your dog is doing. If the temperature is 20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, bring your dog. Also, if your dog is crying then he/she is telling you it is too cold and needs to come in.

In conclusion, treat your dog the way you would want to be treated if you were outside in the cold.