Weather changes can be startling for everyone, including pets. That first cold breeze of winter can feel especially shocking—and nowadays—harsh and unexpected weather is happening more than usual.
It's best to be prepared before harsh weather strikes rather than scrambling for solutions during it. You might think that dogs have built-in protection against the elements thanks to their thick fur and coats, but not all dog fur is created equal. Depending on their size and breed, certain dogs might need more winter weather protection than others. Plus, if you live in an area where pavement is salted to prepare for snow, you’ll need to consider extra protection as well.
It’s easier than ever to get the weather accessories you need for your pet, you just have to know where to begin. Yui Shapard, BVM&S, MRCVS, and medical director at Pawp explains everything you need to know about caring for your pet during the colder months, including how cold is too cold to let them walk freely outside.
When deciding whether or not to take your pet outside, there are a few important factors to consider.
Dr. Shapard says that any outdoor temperature that drops below 25 degrees Fahrenheit is considered unsafe to bring pets outside with zero protection. If your pet must go outside in these temperatures, it's likely that they will require some type of outdoor coat to feel comfortable.
The gear that your pet will need to comfortably head outside in frigid temperatures depends entirely on their breed, says Dr. Shapard.
“If you have a Husky or other breeds that are originally from cold weather countries, as well as many working dog breeds, they have a beautiful, well-insulated coat and don't need [much] cold weather gear,” she explains. "These cold weather breeds will, however, need four booties to protect their paws from the salt sprinkled on the ground in snowy urban regions like New York City.”
For dog breeds such as French bulldogs, Chinese Crested dogs, Yorkies, toy breeds, and dogs with short coats or no undercoat, they will benefit from a sweater or a jacket along with booties to protect their paws from salt if needed.
Knowing when it's appropriate to outfit your pup in a jacket will depend on the severity of the weather.
“In temperatures that drop way below freezing, a full body insulated jacket will likely be necessary for breeds that are not able thermoregulate themselves in cold weather," says Dr. Shapard. “For more mild temperatures that are around freezing or just above, a sweater should be enough.”
Pay attention to how your dog appears when you take them outside in colder temps. Even a temperature that hovers around 30 or 40 could be too cold for some pets. If they slow down during their walks, that could be a good indicator that they’re too cold and need some sort of sweater or jacket to keep them toasty.
It’s a good idea to have a pair of booties on hand for your pet, no matter what breed and what type of weather climate you live in. But if you have a pet that’s averse to wearing them and keeps kicking them off, there are alternative options.
Dr. Shapard recommends pet wax products, like Musher’s Natural Wax to add a protective coating to the dog’s paws as they step out in the elements. They will need some sort of protection against walking on salt on the ground in snowy areas. The rough salt crystals will wear on their paws and cause soreness if they go outside with nothing to protect the pads on their feet.
Have questions about cold weather safety for your pet? The Vet Pros at Pawp are here to chat 24/7.