Can your dog go outside even during winter when it’s very cold?

When is it too cold in the winter to let him go outside?

It depends on the breed of the dog. Indeed, the level of cold tolerance varies greatly from one breed to another. For example, Huskies and Malamutes are well adapted to withstand the cold. On the contrary, Chihuahuas and Greyhounds are not at all.

The recommendations formulated for children by the Canadian Pediatric Society can be used and applied to dogs:

  • If it is warmer than -15°C, dogs can go out without a problem. However, it is necessary to protect from the cold the breeds that are more sensitive to it;
  • If it is between -15°C and -27°C, dogs can go out but they must be closely watched to detect behaviors that indicate that they are cold (see below);
  • If it is colder than -27°C, dogs should not be allowed to go outside, except to pee and defecate. They must be brought back inside as soon as they're done.

Where is the danger in letting him go outside when it’s very cold?

He may get frostbite. Frostbite happens when the skin is exposed to very intense cold for short periods of time or for too long to less intense cold. The cold causes the blood vessels on the skin’s surface to shrink, which causes a decrease in blood supply to the affected area. The skin then becomes pale.

When the lack of blood lasts too long then the skin cells die and inflammation appears. The skin becomes red and swollen, in addition to being painful. With time, and as more and more cells die, whole pieces of skin die. Those areas of skin become black and eventually fall off.

Some parts of the body are more at risk of freezing. For example the ears, because they are located far from the body’s core, and because they are thin and hairless. The foot pads are also particularly sensitive to cold because they are not covered with hair and they come into direct contact with the frozen ground.

How can I protect my dog when he goes outside during winter?

Here are 3 ways to protect dogs from the cold:

• With clothes:

o Coat: There are several models available on the market. Some cover the legs, others have a hood, and others cover the belly. The choice of the model depends very much on how comfortable the dog feels wearing it;
o Boots: There are also several models available (eg high/short, rigid or flexible soles, with Velcro, zipper, elastic fabric, etc.). The boots will also prevent salt in the streets from burning dogs’ footpads. At first, dogs can walk funny or even categorically refuse to move. However, you must persevere and continue make them wear the boots! They will get used to it.
o Toque: The shape of the head of some dog breeds allows them to wear a toque. Some models also cover the ears, as well as the head.

• With an ointment:

o Some ointments (eg Bio Balm®) be applied directly to dogs’ pads and noses (the wet part) before a walk to make a protective barrier that will prevent the cold from reaching the skin. These ointments also help moisturize sensitive parts of the body.

Listening to the dog! : THE MOST IMPORTANT**. Only he can “tell” you that he is cold and that it is time to go back inside:

 He tramples on the same spot;
 He keeps one paw in the air or alternates between paws;
 He suddenly stops walking and refuses to move forward;
 He asks to be picked up;
 He licks the tip of his paws to remove the snow and ice caught in his hair or because his footpads are sore.

What is important to remember is…

Unless it is extremely cold, dogs can go outside in the winter. However, large breed dogs usually tolerate cold weather better than smaller breeds.

It is therefore important to protect small dogs by putting clothes on them and by applying ointment to areas where there is no hair. And, above all, go home when the dog shows you that he is cold.

Does your dog look uncomfortable after a walk out in the cold? He may have frostbite! Contact one of our establishments  so that one of our veterinarians can examine him.

Text created in February 2019