A common question this time of year is, “How cold is too cold for a dog?” The answer is a bit complicated, but thankfully, the good folks at Tufts University already developed a system for animal welfare officers to reference that we can utilize as a guide.
The Tufts Animal Condition and Care (TACC) system (PDF) has many parts, ranging from body condition and environmental health to weather safety, and the scores are used as a screening tool for animal health employees to determine if neglect is occurring. I adapted their information into an easy to understand chart—simply find the outdoor temperature (taking into account wind chill, or the temperature that it actually FEELS outside), look at the size of your dog, and voila! You know based on the color if it’s safe for your pup or not.
Cold weather safety chart for pets
Of course, there are some caveats when it comes to cold weather safety. You can see those on the right hand side of the chart. Wet weather and breed of dog can tip the scale one or more points in either direction. Acclimation to the cold is an important factor, too. For instance, dogs who are training for the Iditarod in Alaska are conditioned to be in the cold over time. If you took an average Husky and dropped it off on an icy tundra, he would likely perish. If your dog is acclimated to cold weather, like many hunting and working dogs, his number on the TACC scale is different than if he’s used to lying in a warm bed all winter like my dog.
Cold weather and hypothermia in dogs
If you do come across a pet that appears to be suffering from hypothermia, call the vet and move the animal to a warm area, then cover the pet with warm water bottles, blankets or towels. Heating pads can burn your pet, so put several layers between your pet and an electric heat source. Transport the pet to medical care as soon as possible.
As always, use common sense and go with your gut. If it’s a “lime green” kind of day, but you still feel like your pet will be too cold, keep him in! Remember, you are your pet’s best advocate—when in doubt, follow your heart.
With cold temperatures and icy surfaces, winter can be a dangerous time for pets. If you do need to take your dog to the vet for hypothermia, frostbite, or for any other reason this winter, you’ll want the peace of mind that comes with a pet insurance plan. Don’t get stuck out in the cold when it comes to unexpected vet bills.
Get covered with Petplan
An insurer who cares about your pets (nearly!) as much as you do.Start quote