Winter is just around the corner and some preparation is in order for outdoor dogs. If you keep your mutt outside, then you’d certainly want to know if dogs and puppies can sleep outdoors in the winter. Well, this article is just for that.
With the passage of time, more dog owners are opting to keep dogs sleeping outside during wintertime. But that doesn’t necessarily have to do with temperature or safety. Keeping dogs indoors is more of a cultural change than a precautionary one.
With that said, there still are people who keep the little guy in their backyard. With winters approaching, is that really a smart move? In this article, we’ll explore what outdoor temperatures are safe for dogs, which breeds can be kept outdoors, and the safety measures to take for them.
Can Dogs Sleep Outside In The Winter?
Well, for those of you who’re looking for a very objective yes-or-no answer, this is going to be disappointing. Whether or not your pooch should sleep outside depends on a lot of factors.
Firstly, you need to know exactly how cold it gets outdoors in the night. Pets and winter often don’t go that well together, so don’t risk it. In general, cold-sensitive dogs would start feeling uncomfortable as the mercury drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, while anything below 20 degrees is downright dangerous for all breeds.
But simply assessing the outdoor temperature isn’t enough. What matters, in particular, is how well your outdoor dog can withstand the cold. For example, a dog with a heavier coat would feel a lot more comfortable on a chilly night than a dog with a shorter coat. Similarly, whether or not you should let your dog sleep outdoors depends on how well its dog house is insulated and what sort of heating sources it has. These are all factors that we’ll discuss in detail as we proceed.
Can Puppies Sleep Outside in the Cold?
It isn’t safe to keep your puppies outdoors in the winter. In fact, it won’t be wrong to say that the poor pup could die of cold if you leave it outside in the night. That’s because puppies aren’t as good at regulating their body temperature as adult dogs are. Now, there are many reasons for that, including their physical capability. However, one of the major reasons is that puppies have a small surface area to volume ratio. This means that it’s harder for them to naturally conserve body heat, much of which is lost to the surroundings.
Also, bear in mind that puppies are more susceptible to a number of diseases. Vets vaccinate puppies in the first few months. But before that, it’s quite dangerous to expose your mutts to the outdoors. By sleeping outside in the winter, there are a number of parasites and diseases that your puppy could get.
Now the real question is: how long before puppies can sleep outside? Well, there’s no definite age, but you can begin the transition anywhere around 4-6 months after birth. Now, even if your puppy seems to be holding up really well against the cold weather, you still shouldn’t let it sleep outdoors at less than 4 months of age. Usually, that’s around the time when your vet would vaccinate the puppy as well.
The Risks of Letting Your Dog Sleep Outside in the Winter
There are a ton of risks for outside dogs in winter, most of which are related to health. These are major factors in deciding if dogs can sleep outdoors in the winter.
If you expose your dog to extremely cold temperatures, then he could get frostbite. This is a condition in which the body’s extremes lose blood flow which can lead to tissue death.
Usually, though, frostbite isn’t life-threatening. As you expose your dog to cold temperatures for extended periods, its body would try to keep its vital organs warm. These organs, like the heart, are vital for the dog’s body to survive. For that, the body pumps more blood to these organs and less of it to the extremes like paws, tail, and ears. This isn’t fatal for a small period of time but could result in tissue death if prolonged.
The symptoms of frostbite in dogs include the skin in the extremes going pale and white. If it proceeds and the skin turns dark, it’s a sign of tissue death that can require amputation. Naturally, if you touch that part of the body, it would feel immensely cold and brittle.
If your dog is suffering from frostbite, you should immediately take him to the vet. For first aid, warm a towel to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit and apply it to the affected area. Make sure you don’t rub or squeeze. Once you start warming the affected areas, make sure you keep them warm and don’t expose them to the cold again. Frostbite is a major concern when considering whether dogs can sleep outdoors.
Even though the previous condition on this list isn’t life-threatening, hypothermia is. In easier terms, hypothermia refers to low body temperature. Often, dogs suffer from hypothermia due to extended exposure to excessively cold temperatures. In this condition, the body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dogs are at a greater risk of hypothermia if they are wet or exposed to snow. Also, chilly winds can further increase the chances of hypothermia. Make sure your dog stays indoors during the night when it’s well below 40 degrees.
When that happens, it’s hard for dogs to breathe and the heart rate falls drastically as well. Both these symptoms can prove to be fatal, if not treated. So, if your dog experiences them, it’s extremely important to rush him to the vet. Other symptoms include visible weakness, cold body, dilated pupils and pale gums and eyelids.
If a dog gets hypothermia, you should immediately bring him to a warm room, apply warm towels and take him to the vet.
Believe it or not, your dog can get the sniffles as well. It’s common for dogs that sleep outdoors to get colds due to a number of viruses and bacteria. The symptoms of dog cold are quite similar to what humans face. A pooch with a cold would have a runny nose, cough, watery eyes, and would feel tired and lethargic.
Now, how do you treat a dog’s cold? Just like in the case of humans, you don’t necessarily need to medicate. However, if your dog seems to be uncomfortable, consider visiting the vet. Your vet would prescribe medication based on the type of virus your dog has.
With that said, there are many home remedies that you can try for your dog’s treatment as well. Just like us, Fido’s nasal passageway can be cleared with the help of some steam. So, a good ol’ steam bath ought to do the trick! Also, make sure your dog drinks a lot and also has good meals as well. Many dogs tend to eat less when they’re sick (don’t all of us?). But you’d want to keep your dog energized by maintaining his usual diet. You can also use a Vitamin C-rich diet to treat your mutt.
If your dog has been coughing around, then you’re probably thinking if it’s contagious. If the cold symptoms are the same between man and dog, then is it possible that you could get a cold from your dog (or vice versa)? Not at all. The viruses that cause colds in man and dog are completely different and can not transfer between species.
What Can I do to help my dog sleep outside in the winter?
In 2018, a Montco woman let her dog sleep outdoors in 20 degrees of frost, as a result of which the poor thing died. This is right out animal cruelty and that’s what the police charged for as well.
If you’re letting your dog sleep outdoors in the winter, that’s completely your choice. However, it’s your responsibility to keep him warm through the night. So, in this section, we’ll go over some of the most common ways you can keep your dog warm if he sleeps outdoors.
Insulated Dog House
The first thing that you should be buying for an outdoor dog is an insulated dog house. However, for harsh winters, you don’t just need any house. What you need is a heated outdoor kennel in order to ensure a comfortable temperature, especially as night.
Now, what’s an insulated dog house? It’s one that has the ability to retain heat inside it. Manufacturers make these houses from insulating materials like plastic. They’re also smaller in size so as to avoid heat dissipation. Usually, they’ll have just enough space for the dog to coop up inside it.
Insulated dog houses aren’t just useful for the winter, but also for the summer as well since they remain cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold. With an insulated house, dogs sleeping outside during winter are not an issue at all.
Dog heaters are an efficient way to keep your mutt warm during the night. However, you can’t use every dog heater outdoors. So, make sure you read through the product’s listing online or ask questions from the store manager before purchasing one. Some heaters that are designed for indoor use won’t hold well against the elements. So, you’d want to be absolutely sure that you’re not wasting any money here.
Also, consider the safety features of your dog heater. You see, Fido is going to be on his own in the night and you don’t want to leave him with an electric heating appliance that can possibly burn him. Some high-end manufacturers use specific safety features to keep dogs a certain distance away from the heater. This helps in avoiding overheating or burning.
You’d also want to make sure that the heater has a fantastic thermostat. There’s absolutely no compromise on this one. If your heater’s thermostat isn’t accurate, it could easily under or overheat your dog.
Heat lamps are one of the most useful methods of keeping dogs warm in the cold night. What are they? Well, they’re infrared bulbs in a lamp. These bulbs emit heat that dogs absorb. You can hang these bubs on the inside wall of your outdoor dog house. Make sure you point it towards your dog and that your dog house isn’t too big or small.
However, there is a risk of overheating or even burning your dog with a heat lamp. So, observe your pooch regularly throughout the first day that you install a heat lamp. Usually, a 100-Watt bulb would keep about 5 cubic meters warm.
These are another useful addition to outdoor dog houses. With heated pads, your dog gets a warm pad to lie on. These pads are often electric and can be used overnight. Just make sure the cord is anti-chew. Good manufacturers use metallic rods so there’s a lesser chance of your dog chewing it.
What Dog Breeds Can Endure Extremely Cold Weather?
Not all dog breeds have the same ability to withstand cold. Some breeds have adapted to cold temperatures over time. There are a number of physical adaptations that these dog breeds have and we’ll discuss them in this section.
But before we move on to the adaptations, here are some dog breeds that can endure extremely cold weather:
You better believe that these dogs can sleep outdoors in the winter if the temperature allows. Now, what adaptations do these dog breeds have for the winter? Well, for starters, they have a heavier coat. These breeds often have a double coat that’s also longer in length. This provides them with useful natural insulation against the cold.
Most of these dogs are from up North. So, they’re also physiologically adapted to cold outdoor environments. With that said, there are many other factors that come into play here and it’s completely normal if a dog from one of these breeds is cold-averse. Just like humans, these guys have their personal preferences as well.
With that said, smaller dogs often find it harder to regulate their body temperature. What’s more, fat in the body also provides an additional layer of insulation. But don’t go overfeeding your dog in hopes to keep it warm. This can potentially cause life-threatening diseases.
What is the Right Temperature to Let my Dog Sleep Outside?
Well, that depends. There isn’t a particular temperature that’s suitable for all dogs. Before we go into detail and discuss safe temperature ranges for dogs to sleep outdoors in the winter, there are some pre-requisites that we should discuss.
Firstly, you need to assess how good your dog is at withstanding cold. As mentioned above, dog breeds with heavier and longer fur would generally have better insulation. On the other hand, dog breeds like Greyhounds that have thin coats would feel awfully cold outdoors in the winter.
Also, larger dogs are more comfortable in the cold as compared to smaller ones. The conditioning of your dog is another factor to consider when deciding on a safe temperature for it to sleep outdoors.
With that said, Jennifer Coates, DVM, says that as the temperature drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, cold-averse dogs (like Greyhounds) would start feeling uncomfortable. These dogs would be in danger at outdoor temperatures of around 32 degrees. However, any temperature under 20 degrees poses a threat to all dogs.
Bear in mind, though, that temperature is not the only factor to consider here. Other factors like wind and dampness can also make your dog feel cold, even if the temperature isn’t that chilly outdoors.
Dogs can sleep outdoors in the winter if you make sure their temperature is being regulated properly. For that, you can buy an insulated dog house and use dog heaters, heating pads, and lamps. Make sure you’re looking out for frostbite and hypothermia and never take a risk of letting your dogs sleep outside in a particularly chilly night. If your dog shows any signs of sickness, rush him to the vet as soon as possible.