We have all been warned about the dangers of walking your dog in hot weather, but what about in the cold? Is it ever too cold to walk your dog? How can you keep your dog safe, warm, and well-exercised when the weather is freezing outside?
Do Dogs Feel the Cold?
Many breeds of dogs have thick coats of fur that keep them warm when the weather is chilly, but all dogs can feel the cold, no matter their breed. Dogs will feel the cold through their feet because the pads are more sensitive and there's less fur to protect them. Dogs with thin coats or very little body fat, like whippets and greyhounds, and small breeds like chihuahuas and Yorkshire Terriers are particularly prone to feeling the cold.
When Should You Worry That It's Too Cold for Your Dog?
Dogs who live in colder climates will tend to adapt better to this weather, so if you live somewhere that's regularly sub-zero, you might find your dog doesn't show any signs that they're feeling cold. However, dogs who live in hot or temperate climates are likely to be more affected by the cold. So, if it's an unusually cold day and you’re feeling the cold, it’s likely that your dog is too, even though they’re covered in fur. Keep an eye out for signs that they’re feeling chilly and take them inside if you need to.
What are the Signs That Your Dog is Feeling Cold on a Walk?
If your dog shows any of the signs below, it might be because they’re feeling cold. Beware though, some of the signs can also be associated with pain or other health problems. Read more about signs that your dog is in pain. If you’re concerned about your dog’s behavior and you’re unsure whether they’re sick, injured, or just cold, book an appointment with our BetterVet team.
If your dog is trembling or shivering, they’re probably feeling the cold. Especially if they were behaving normally before they went outside to face the winter weather. However, trembling can also be associated with some neurological conditions, muscular issues, and pain. Therefore, if your pet trembles or tremors regularly and it doesn’t seem to be when it’s cold, it’s best to get them checked by a vet, who can do a general neurological assessment.
Holding Their Paws Up
If your pooch’s paws are feeling sensitive to the cold, they might be reluctant to put their feet down. This is especially obvious if there’s snow on the ground. You might notice them holding their feet up one by one as they try to warm them up. If they’re holding the same paw up most of the time, it could mean that they have an injury.
Reluctance to Walk
If your dog is usually enthusiastic when it comes to taking walks, but they’re suddenly reluctant, it could mean it’s too cold for them. They might not want to leave the house in the first place, or perhaps they don’t want to play or they want to go home sooner than normal. Of course, lethargy and lack of enthusiasm or energy for exercise could also mean a variety of different illnesses and ailments, so if you're not sure you should speak to a veterinarian.
How Can You Help Your Dog Feel Warmer on a Walk?
Here are some methods for helping your canine companion feel cozier in the cold weather:
Dress Them in a Coat
Putting a coat on your dog that's designed for them can help keep them feeling nice and toasty. Make sure to choose a coat made with an insulating fabric in a size that is comfortable for them and does not prevent them from moving freely.
Invest in Dog Boots
You can protect your pup’s paws from the cold or snow by putting booties on them and make sure they’re a good fit. If they’re too tight, they could affect the blood supply to the foot, and if they are too loose and they could rub against their legs and cause irritation.
Wait for Warmer Weather
If the extreme cold weather is temporary and not likely to last, it is a good idea to use up some energy playing inside instead and postpone any longer walks for a day or two.
The cold winter season can be beautiful and fun for pets, but they do pose some risks when it comes to keeping our furry friends safe. In extreme temperatures, your pet could become too cold or even experience frostbite. If you're concerned about your canine companion, speak to a member of our team.
Frequently Asked Questions
When is it Too Cold to Walk the Dog?
There’s no particular threshold that makes it too cold to walk your dog. A large breed dog or one with lots of fur or body fat will cope better with the cold than a small, thin dog with a thin coat. The most important thing is to assess how your dog is feeling by watching for signs that they are cold.
Is it Safe to Take a Dog for a Walk in Cold Weather?
It can be safe to walk your dog in cold weather but watch out for shivering or holding their paws up. Make sure the walk isn’t too long, even if they seem to be coping well, and if they don’t seem to want to go, it might be worth skipping a walk for a day or two until the weather warms up. Insulating coats and boots offer good protection and will help keep your dog feeling warm and more willing to go outside.