How Cold is Too Cold for a Dog?

There is nothing cuter than watching a dog play in the snow on a chilly winter day. Lots of dogs love being outside all times of the year, and the cold winter season is no exception. Even though our pups may love being outside while it is cold, we do need to ask ourselves how cold is too cold for a dog.

The answer to this question varies by factors such as age, breed, and overall health. Some breeds may begin to feel uncomfortable once the temperature dips below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, while other breeds can do just fine in the cold until the temperature drops below 20 degrees.

If you are curious to learn more about how cold is too cold for your pup, read our article!

how cold is too cold for a dog in peoria il

Common Illnesses in Dogs Caused by Cold Weather

When you leave your dog in the cold for a long time, it can cause serious medical problems. Dogs could potentially develop frostbite, hypothermia, the flu, pneumonia, kennel cough, and the sniffles.

Hypothermia hypothermia in dogs

When a dog spends too much time in a cold environment, their body temperature levels will become low, which is called hypothermia. If your dog has a poor health condition, such as diabetes, and they are exposed to cold temperatures, they can also develop hypothermia. Dog owners should try to prevent hypothermia by keeping their dogs indoors during winter.

The symptoms of hypothermia include depression, weakness, lethargy, pale skin, pale gums, restlessness, shivering, and dilated pupils. Hypothermia also causes slow heart rate, low breathing rate, and stiff muscles. Any of these symptoms could indicate that your dog has hypothermia.

You should use a rectal thermometer to check your dog’s temperature; if it is below 35 degrees Celsius, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. Also, cover your dog in a warm blanket and keep them in a warm environment.


Frostbite is another illness in dogs caused by cold weather. When dogs spend too much time in extreme cold, there is a drop in their body temperature, and this leads to tissue damage. It occurs when blood is drawn from the extremities to the body’s center. Ice crystals can form on the dog’s paws, ears, nose, and tail, which can even further cause tissue damage.

Symptoms of frostbite include pain when you touch the affected area, swelling, weak pulse, blisters, skin ulcers, discoloration of the affected area, and paleness from lack of blood flow.

Once again, you should contact your veterinarian if you notice these symptoms in your dog. You should also apply warm water to the affected areas and keep your dog in a warm environment.

How Cold Is Too Cold For a Dog?

While it is hard to give a generalized answer across the board for all dogs and breeds, 45 degrees Fahrenheit is when some dogs start to get uncomfortable. For small dogs, elderly dogs and puppies, and dogs with health conditions, damage can happen a 32 degrees Fahrenheit. At 20 degrees Fahrenheit, all dogs regardless of age and breed, can develop illness if left in the cold for too long.

what temperature is too cold for a dog

What Factors Determine How A Dog Responds to Cold Weather?

Different factors determine how a dog will respond to cold; some of them are listed below.

  • Age and health: the age and health of your dog are a great determining factor in how they will respond to cold weather. Unlike healthy dogs, the elderly and the sick (dogs with kidney problems, hormonal issues, or Cushing’s disease) find it difficult to regulate their body temperature.

When your dog finds it difficult to regulate their body temperature because of a medical condition or old age, it can cause an irregular heartbeat which can lead to low oxygen in the body and cause a change in blood pressure.

  • A dog’s coat: Your dog’s fur is also a great determinant of how they respond to cold; dogs with thick fur and double-layered coats tend to respond better to cold than dogs with thin coats and fur. Dogs with thin coats tend to suffer more but dogs with thick coats will eventually feel the effects of the cold weather if they stay outdoors for a long time.
  • Size and weight: Small dogs tend to get colder faster than large dogs because larger breeds are better at retaining heat and conserving energy. Body fat composition and weight also play a significant role as thinner dogs get colder faster than heftier dogs.
  • Coat color: dark-coated dogs absorb substantial amounts of heat from sunlight during a clear day, which helps them to stay warmer during cold weather compared to light-coated dogs.


How much cold a dog can handle varies by a lot of factors such as their age, overall health, and breed. If you have any further questions regarding how cold is too cold for your pup, reach out to your veterinarian for expert guidance.

For dogs and dog parents in the Peoria, IL region, Whitney Veterinary Hospital is here for you. Call us today at (309) 685-4707 or make an appointment online!