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What Temperature Is Too Cold To Walk A Dog Outside

Introduction

Bundling up for wintertime walks can be tough for humans, but for dogs it can be downright ruff. It begs the question of what temperature is too cold to walk a dog outside; of course, this depends on your pup’s breed and the nuances of the weather patterns. In this article, these topics and more, such as alternatives to walking in the cold, will be covered.

The main factors that affect a dog’s vulnerability to cold temperatures are the size of the dog, age, and hair type. On top of that, there are some other factors related to weather that matter like the wind chill and humidity.

Thresholds for Withstanding the Cold

To kick things off, have a look at this infographic made by our friends at SydeRoad, which splits things up based on the size of the dog. The thresholds for coldness might be tighter than you thought; for small & medium sized dogs, 4 degrees celsius is about the limit, while for large dogs the threshold begins at about 1 degree.

Mind you, there are many different breeds of dogs, and SydeRoad seems to draw broad strokes averages across all breeds; without a doubt, Alaskan Huskies can handle far colder temperatures than 1 degree celsius. Let’s now explore these factors that determine a dog's susceptibility to the cold.

Factors to Consider

Here's a trifecta of factors which help to explain if a dog can withstand old man winter's icy breath. As logic dictates, they include the size, age, and hair of a dog.

Size

A dog's size is its first factor to consider when it comes to cold susceptibility. It actually just relates right back to junior high science! A smaller dog has less "thermal" energy, due to its lower muscle mass (meaning less heat generation via muscle usage), and less insulating fat content.

Age

Age is also a factor when it comes to considering vulnerability to the cold. As any animal ages, their body internals become less efficient, which includes their body’s ability to regulate heat. This is why visits to your grandparents’ house might mean melting, due to their maxed out thermostat, with humidifiers on full blast!

Older pups also typically have stiffer joints, which cold weather punishes; plus, the outdoor cold can exacerbate arthritis and contract muscles, further adding to stiffness.

Hair

Last but certainly not least, the hair-type of dogs matter in their ability to regulate heat.

For example, the double-layered coats of Siberian huskies, Newfoundlands, Samoyeds, and Malamutes make these breeds well-suited to the cold; much like a polar bear’s double-layers skin. However, breeds without these genetic advantages for outdoors cold such as greyhounds, short-haired dachshunds, and chihuahuas are ill-equipped to walk in even -2 degrees celsius.

Weather Conditions

As a "bonus", weather conditions, including wind chill and humidity, matter when talking a dog’s ability to withstand the cold. 

Wind chill

Wind chill is important to consider, since the temperature and speed of the air affects how quickly the heat is added or subtracted from your body. In other words, faster air, which is the wind chill, makes any temperature transfer happen quicker, so cold weather seeps through your dog’s bones faster if there’s more wind chill. 

Humidity

Humidity is also important since it shows how much absence of heat is actually present in the air. Put in a different way, if the air is dry and cold – okay fine, it’s somewhat cold, but it won’t really sap the heat from your dog’s body like a sponge. On the other hand, if the air is humid and cold, there’s really an absence of heat around you and your dog, and it’ll really move the heat out of you!

Solutions to Endure the Cold

As a quick tie-up for this article, it’s worth talking about ways to weasel-around these tight temperature thresholds at which points it’s too cold to walk your dog. For humans, 4 degrees celsius is pretty darn cold actually, so you've probably got closets full of coats and shoes to ward off the risks of frostbite and hypothermia. You can help your dog with the same gear!

Coats

Coats for dogs are the logical first solution for thecold, and they’ll make it much more bearable for your dog to withstand winter. When you can see that your dog is shivering, whining, tucking her or his tail, or slowing down on the walk, it's probably time to invest in a warm winter coat.

If you live in an especially cold part of the world, or if your dog still shivers with a new coat on, it's likely worth looking into upgrading to an even thicker jacket for your dog.

Dog Booties

Next, dog shoes great for frostbitten paws or antifreeze on the ground.

If your dog regularly lifts her or his paws from the ground, licking them, it might be because the ground is really cold, or because they’ve just stepped in some antifreeze. For this reason, taking the time to get those paw shoes on your dog is worth it! There’s also musher paste which you can cake onto your dogs paws before walks, which is always helpful. No matter what, just make sure to always wipe your pup’s paws thoroughly after going on dog walks.

Warning About Anti-Freeze

Antifreeze is ethylene glycol; a poisonous substance which can seriously impair your dog even if it’s not obvious from their reaction (they may just feel a stomach ache which they don’t readily show).

Symptoms of antifreeze poison vary of course in how much antifreeze your dog ingests, as well as how much time has elapsed since consumption. Oftentimes, the hour after consumption can result in lethargy, disorientation, lack of coordination, and grogginess. After several hours or days of this, the issues can escalate to vomiting, ulcers, or other worse conditions. For that reason, be sure to always be vigilant about your pup accidentally consuming antifreeze on the ground, and visit your vet if you're concerned about ingestion

Conclusion

You’ve figured out in this article what the safe temperature zonse are for dogs, as well as the factors affecting a certain breeds' resilience to cold temperatures and  weather conditions! Gauge these kibble-bits of information properly, and you’ll have a much better feeling for when it’s too cold to walk your dog outside.

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