How cold is too cold for dog walks?

When considering walking your dog in cold weather, there’s a pretty simple rule to live by – if it's too cold for you, it's too cold for your dog.

But like humans, every dog is different. Where some dogs seem to be made for snow and wet weather, others can struggle in even the slightest of chills. The vet experts at Joii have given us some guidelines to help you decide if you should brave the elements or stay in the warmth:

  • 5 degrees Celsius: at this temperature, “cold averse” dogs may start to struggle. So, if your dog is particularly small, has a thin coat or spends most of their life snuggled up in a blanket, it may be time to give dog coats a go, reduce the length of your works, or even give the walks a miss.
  • 0 degrees Celsius: small dogs, puppies, elderly and skinny dogs may start to struggle and should avoid walks where possible.
  • -5 degrees Celsius: skip the walks at this stage. Health risks for your dog if they spend too much time outside in this temperature may include: hypothermia, frostbite, as well as cracked paws, pads or noses.

Just looking at the temperature on the thermometer (or if you’re like us, on your phone’s weather app) isn’t enough, you also need to take into account wind chill, wet conditions (rain or damp ground) and how sunny the day is. If in doubt,  keep your walk short or skip it all together if your dog can toilet in the garden instead.

What can we do to keep our pets warm when outside in the winter?

  • Wrap up in a coat: Skinny and thin coated dogs can benefit from a warm jacket. Be careful of putting a coat on a fluffy dog though as it can actually stop their fur trapping heat by pushing out the air in their coat that works as natural insolation.
  • Keep active: Movement will generate body heat so keep your dog active when outside.
  • Look out for grit: Be aware of chemicals such as grit and salt on the roads as it can be an irritant to a dog’s paws and pads, and their noses too when they are sniffing. Ice and snow can also cause irritation.
  • Protect those paws! There are some brilliant balms on the market to protect paws and pads from cold conditions. Sensitive dogs will benefit from dog-friendly booties to keep their pads protected in the cold weather.
  • Keep it snappy: If your dog is not used to the cold it is important to stick to shorter walks to start off with until they get used to it. Heading outside during the warmer part of the day (11am-3pm) is also a good place to start.
  • Be aware: Important signs of cold related illness to watch out for include shivering, whining, reluctance to move, holding paws up, seeking warmth, or acting disoriented. If you see any of these, head home immediately and warm up. If symptoms continue, please contact a vet for guidance.


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