How Cold Is Too Cold For Dogs, And When Does It Get Dangerous?

Written by Shaunice Lewis
Updated: October 11, 2022
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When the temperature drops and colder months arrive, it’s time to start thinking about what temperature is too cold for dogs to be outside. How long is it safe for a dog to be outside during winter? How long can my dog play in the snow? These are questions you might want to consider when winter rolls around again. Read on to learn more about how cold is too cold for dogs.

Factors to Consider

There are a few things that go into understanding how cold is too cold for dogs. This is because every dog is different and they can vary wildly depending on things like the breed, size, and age.

Size of Your Dog

The first thing we’ll go over is the size of the dog. Your dog’s size has a lot to do with determining whether or not it’s safe for it to play outside when the weather is cold.

You’ll want to begin to use caution when the temperature drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit or 7 degrees Celsius. This is when it starts to become potentially unsafe for small or medium-sized dogs that have thin coats. Big dogs that have heavier coats are okay within this temperature range. But when the temperature drops down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit and below, it becomes unsafe for dogs of all sizes and breeds. At this temperature, all dogs become at risk for hypothermia and frostbite.

Your Dog’s Coat Weight

The next thing you’ll want to consider is the weight of your dog’s coat or the fur’s thickness. There are dog breeds like the Siberian Husky, Samoyed, and Newfoundlands that have denser coats and are usually much more comfortable in colder temperatures than other dogs. On the other hand, dogs like Greyhounds or Xoloitzcuintles would need to be brought in at temperatures of around 45 degrees Fahrenheit.


Always consider what the weather conditions will be like for the day if you plan on letting your dog spend any amount of time outdoors during cold weather. If there is a chance for snow or rain, it can make the cold air unbearable for your dog, especially if it’s a smaller breed or has a thinner coat. If the air temperature is going to be below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for the day, it’s best to leave your dog indoors—as the cold could present a real danger to your dog’s health and safety at such frigid temperatures.

Familiarity With Cold Weather

How well your dog does when the temperature drops will depend somewhat on how much your dog is used to being outdoors during colder weather conditions. Some cold-friendly breeds like Siberian Huskies are used to being outdoors during colder temperatures and have a much easier time dealing with the conditions.

You still want to exercise extreme caution and should never assume that just because your dog is a large breed or has a thick coat that it will be okay staying in the cold weather—especially for long periods of time. Dogs should not be left to sleep outside overnight when the weather reaches very cold temperatures of anywhere around 45 degrees Fahrenheit and below.

Supervision While Outdoors

If you’re going to have your dog outside when it’s cold, it’s best to stay near it so that you can monitor how well it is doing. If the temperature is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll want to avoid certain activities for your dog like swimming, as the water will be too cold. And if you plan on leaving your dog out in the car while you run into a store for a moment, be sure to leave the heat on in your car so that it can stay warm. The safest thing to do is to never leave your dog unattended in a vehicle if at all possible.

Warning Signs That Your Dog is Too Cold

There are some specific things you can be on the lookout for if you want to make sure that your dog isn’t too cold. Just like people, dogs can get hypothermia if they’re left out in the cold for too long. Some of the symptoms of Hypothermia include:

  • Shaking
  • Lethargy
  • Low Heart Rate
  • Stiff Muscles
  • Dilated Pupils

If you notice that your dog is shaking or any of the above signs, be sure to get them to the vet immediately so that they can be treated. Hypothermia can be life-threatening if you don’t get your dog into a warmer environment and then seen by a vet quickly.

How Can I Keep My Dog Warm When It’s Cold?

Luckily, there are a few ways you can help keep your dog warm when it gets cold out. Never leave your dog outside too long in the cold even if you take these precautions, but you can use them to help keep your dog warm for shorter periods of time with supervision.

Limit Your Dog’s Outdoor Time

The first and most obvious thing you can do is limit your dog’s outdoor time. It doesn’t take long for frostbite to set it in for both humans and dogs. Dogs can catch frostbite on their delicate earflaps as well as their tail tips. During extremely cold weather it’s best to keep dogs inside, with the exception of some of the heavy-coated breeds we mentioned earlier that thrive in lower temperatures.

Keep an eye out if your dog’s skin appears to be white or blue as these tend to be indicators of frostbite. The less amount of time your dog spends outside in the cold, the less likely it is to suffer from frostbite.

Bundle Your Dog Up

Even though most dogs have a coat of fur, they could still benefit from being bundled up in something warmer—especially when the temperature drops very low. Just like we wouldn’t go out into a snowstorm wearing only a light spring jacket, our dogs shouldn’t go out in only a thin layer of fur. Small, delicate, and short-haired dogs would benefit from being bundled up in a warming vest. Even large dogs like Greyhounds will need something to bundle up in since they have such short fur. You can also make sure that your dog has weather-appropriate clothing like a sturdy winter coat or a fitted sweater.

Protect Your Dog’s Paws

The next thing you can do to help keep your dog warm when it’s cold is to make sure that its paws are protected. Your dog has pads on its feet that are very sensitive to temperature. In very cold weather, especially if there is snow or ice on the ground, a dog’s paws should be covered. You can consider buying a pair of dog booties to cover your dog’s feet and help keep them warm.

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Use A Heated Dog Bed

A heated dog bed or mat can be a great way to help your dog keep warm in the winter, as well as provide it a safe warm place to warm up after returning from the outdoors. Heated beds are especially great for senior dogs that might have a harder time keeping warm when the weather’s cold. As a safety measure, be sure to look for one that has an automatic shutoff function so that if it ever gets too warm it will turn off automatically on its own. This will provide an extra sense of safety knowing that the mat will not overheat or cause injury to your dog.

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Other Winter Safety Tips For Dog Owners

Winter weather can be unpredictable and conditions can deteriorate very quickly. Making sure that you have a plan that includes the needs of your dog is the best way to ensure the safety and health of your furry friend. If you lose power during the winter, make sure that you have a backup plan to keep your dog warm too. Extra blankets can help trap your dog’s body heat and prevent it from becoming too cold.

You should also be on the lookout for thin ice if you happen to be out with your dog. Sometimes a nearby lake freezes over and your dog may attempt to step onto the ice. There are many stories each winter of dogs and individuals falling into icy waters that might look like fun to side across or play on. This ice is usually thin and is able to crack easily, meaning you and your dog could fall in. Always keep an eye on your dog if you take it for a walk during the winter so that it doesn’t run onto thin ice when you’re not paying attention.

Another thing to be aware of is antifreeze. If your dog manages to get a taste of antifreeze, it is at extreme risk of damage to its internal organs. It only takes about one teaspoon of antifreeze to cause kidney failure. Be alert to the signs that your dog has ingested some of it, these include vomiting, drooling, seizures, excessive thirst, panting, lethargy, and a drunken appearance.

If you think that your dog might have consumed antifreeze, you should get it to the vet as quickly as possible. Even if you keep your antifreeze put away safely, there is the chance of there being some residue that has spilled in the street. Most antifreeze is green ethylene glycol, but it can come in different colors so keep an eye on where your dog is sniffing in case he’s found some.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © dezy/

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About the Author

Freelance writer specializing in natural health and wellness.

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