Is it too cold outside for your dog? | Calgary Dog Health

A red haired mixed breed dog walking toward the camera in the snow holding a ball in his mouth

Winter weather and your dog

As the temperatures drop, the world transforms into a lovely white paradise. Although your dog might not appear to mind, knowing how cold is too cold for your dog as the temperature lowers is vital. Is it safe for dogs to be outside in the cold?

Your dog enjoys being wherever you are, including outside in the cold. Like you, your pooch will thrive on fresh air and physical activity. However, not all canines react the same way to cold. 

Some breeds, like the Siberian Husky, Malamute, and Samoyed, are meant to withstand harsh temperatures, while others like the Chihuahua and Pitbull – not so much! 

In this blog post, we’ll look at all the ways you can help your dog deal with plummeting temperatures. 

When Is It Too Cold for Dogs Outside?

Like us, dogs need to be outdoors, and will happily follow you for a walk even in sub-zero temperatures. However, as the temperatures drop, a walk may not be safe for your dog. 

Most dogs can tolerate cool temperatures over 7 degrees Celsius. Unless your dog is really old, ill, or hairless, he or she won’t need an outer layer of clothes like a sweater.  Some toy, miniature and petite breed dogs, such as Chihuahuas, may require light sweaters depending on their coat type, so keep an eye out for early indications of shivering.

Once the temperature drops between 0 and -10°C, your dog will most certainly require extra protection unless your dog is a breed that comes from an extraordinarily cold climate like the Siberian Husky. Small dogs will most certainly need an extra layer but with the correct equipment, these temperatures should not interfere with your dog’s routine outdoor activities.

Significant dangers arise when the temperature falls below 10 degrees Celsius (-10°C), which is a typical winter in Calgary. Sadly -20°C to -40°C is more and more common in winter here and even dogs who enjoy the cold can’t stand it for long – or at all.

The correct protective equipment can help, but it’s up to you to pick suitable outdoor activities and restrict your dog’s time outside to keep them safe from excessive exposure. (Or even keep them inside for a few days until the weather warms up.)

Some Dogs Are More Prone Than Others

When determining whether your dog’s body temperature is too chilly, assess your dog’s breed and coat type. Several factors influence how a dog reacts to the cold.

Coat Type

A dog with a thick, double-layered coat can withstand the cold well. Siberian Huskies, Newfoundlands, Samoyeds, and Malamutes all have this sort of coat. These breeds were developed specifically to tolerate Arctic temperatures in northern locations and will likely be fine at -10°C degrees. 

In addition to their thick, insulating coat, the dogs have anatomical, behavioural, and physiological development mechanisms that help them cope with cold temperatures.

Short-haired, single-coated breeds such as Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, and Greyhounds are likely to suffer in cold weather since their hair coat provides little to no insulation.

Colour of Coat

Numerous dog owners are astonished to hear that coat colour influences whether or not a dog can survive the cold. On a bright, sunny day, dark-coloured dogs with black or brown fur absorb heat from the sun, keeping them warmer than light-coloured dogs.

Colour won’t make much of a difference, but a bright sunny winter day may help your black dog feel a bit more at ease, even in chilly temperatures.

Size of Dog

In chilly weather, little dogs can lose significant body heat. Their tiny height causes them to lose heat quickly and get cooler than larger breed dogs. 

To get an exact calculation of what your dog’s body temperature is too cold for canines, consider the size of your furry friend, and you can use this chart for a gauge. 

Chart showing how cold is too cold for dogs outside


When the hot summer days begin to fade, even a cool 10-degree day feels chilly. Nevertheless, once spring comes, that same 10-degree day feels way warmer after a long frozen winter.

Physical acclimation is the cause of this condition. If your dog is used to frigid conditions, then he or she would have adapted to the cold and can tolerate it better than a dog that is used to remaining warm.

Weather extremes can be more harmful than the normal and gradual changes that occur with each season. And we all know that in Calgary, it can change drastically in a very short time

Age and Health

A sick, aged dog or a young pup cannot efficiently control their core body temperature. In cold temperatures, they will require more protection than other dogs.

Risks of Cold Weather for Dogs

Despite the perils of cold weather, some dogs like it. However, they need us to make the best decisions for their safety when they want to be outdoors,  so it’s up to you to be aware of the dangers and keep them safe no matter what winter brings.


You should keep a watchful check on your dog and look for signs of dog hypothermia. In dogs, severe hypothermia can develop if owners leave their pets unsupervised outside in frigid conditions or even on a long stroll.

You’ll need to learn some symptoms of hypothermia, which are: 

  • Shivering
  • Breathing problems
  • Lethargy
  • Sleepy
  • Dilated pupils
  • Skin that is cold to the touch
  • Body temperature drops below 35 degrees 
  • Blueish colour emerges on pale gums
  • Walking is difficult
  • Weakness
  • Slow heart rate 
  • State of confusion
  • Coma or loss of awareness

Hypothermia Treatment in Dogs

If you suspect your dog has hypothermia, he or she will need immediate attention, as the condition can swiftly turn life-threatening. Before dashing to the vet:

  • Protect your pet from the cold as soon as possible.
  • If the dog’s fur is moist, use clothes to dry him or her.
  • Put a blanket around your dog.
  • To keep your dog warm, use a hot water bottle. You can use heating pads but take great care not to burn your dog. 
  • Give your dog some warm water. 
  • Check your dog’s temperature. It shouldn’t be lower than 37°C.


Another condition to watch out for is frostbite. Dogs are more adapted than humans to roam about in freezing weather, but they are still vulnerable to frostbite. Frostbite is more common in dogs on thinner appendages farthest from their core, such as paws, noses, and ears.

Because your dog’s paws will be in close touch with snow, ice, and icy water bottles, they are the most vulnerable to cold harm.

Frostbite Signs

Your dog may be enjoying the cold, but it is still critical to know the symptoms of frostbite. Examine your dog for any common signs of frostbite in dogs regularly during your winter outings and activities. The sooner you identify the issue, the easier it will be to resolve it.

Here are the symptoms: 

  • Skin lesions that are red or exceedingly pale
  • Blisters or swelling
  • Pain or discomfort when touched
  • Walking with paws lifted
  • Seeking warmth or protection from the weather
  • Weakness or mobility issues
  • Skin tissues turning black or fading
  • Nose or ear tips that are curled or cracked
  • Severe fur loss
  • Whining and barking

Frostbite Treatment in Dogs

The first step in treating frostbite at any stage is to contact your veterinarian. Even mild instances might deteriorate over time if not treated properly.

Frostbite, like a burn, may cause tissue damage for days after it has occurred, so implementing a suitable treatment plan from the start is your greatest chance of minimizing damage and assisting your dog in healing quickly.

  • Bring them inside.
  • Wrap a warm blanket around your dog
  • Defrost the affected area
  • Safeguard the affected area
  • Get to the vet! 

Stiffness in Joints

Dogs with hip and joint problems may suffer from the cold more than healthy dogs with normal mobility. Cold weather’s blood pressure variations can cause connective tissues and muscles to enlarge. This inflammation can lead to discomfort and reduce your dog’s movement even further.

The most vulnerable to harsh weather will be older dogs that already have joint inflammatory disorders such as arthritis. On really cold days, limiting outside activity may be important.

chihuahua dog running toward the camera in the snow, photographed in a downtown park in Calgary, Alberta

How to Keep Your Dog Warm in the Cold

Stock up on Winter Dog Supplies

Keeping your dog nice and warm during his outside activities necessitates the proper dog clothing. Winter dog jackets are designed for all sorts of cold weather, and the type you select should be armed for the Calgary winter. 

In snow or icy weather, your dog will benefit from doggy booties to help keep their paws warm and protect the skin from the salt and dangerous chemicals on the roads.

Examine Their Temperature

A dog’s typical body temperature varies from 38 to 39 degrees Celsius. Whenever a dog is subjected to cold, its core temperature begins to drop. If the temperature falls below 35 degrees, the pooch is at severe risk of hypothermia

Maintain Your Home’s Comfort

Some dog parents are concerned that the temperature inside their houses is too low for their canines. Most big dogs are most at ease when the temperature inside their home is between 20 to 21 degrees, while small dogs are happier when the temperature is between 22 to 23 degrees.

Wrap a Blanket Around Them

On a cold day, many dogs prefer the warmth and coziness of a blanket or doggy pyjamas to cuddle in. Just keep an eye out so your dog doesn’t chew on the cloth, we don’t want them to swallow any of the material or become entangled in it. Remove the blanket if it becomes ragged and replace it with a fresh one for your pet. If you have a constant blanket and bed chewer – as I do – stick with the pyjamas to keep them cozy. 

Final Thoughts 

The Calgary winter can be fun, but while humans can simply pile on the layers and decide when it’s too much, our dogs need help.  Even double-coated dogs can struggle in our freezing temperatures, so keep a close watch on your dogs and be mindful of their comfort and safety. And, thank goodness for the chinooks! 😉

Do you want to build a snowman? 😀

If your dog loves warm winter days and playing in the snow – consider booking an Outdoor Portrait Session with me!

However, if your dog isn’t a fan of old-man winter – consider a nice and cozy portrait session in my studio – cuddles included!

Pawsitive Vibes, 🐾

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Heidi Grace

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Pet Portraits with Personality

Heidi Grace is a nationally accredited and award-winning professional photographer serving Calgary, Alberta.

She’s dedicated to preserving the bond between pets and their parents with her colourful style of story-telling imagery.

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