As temperatures drop in Minnesota, we can simply bundle up in layers, thick hats, and insulated boots to go out in the chilly, winter weather. But what about our dogs? They need protection from the cold, too, and they need you to determine what winter clothing and gear they should wear. As you make this decision every day before allowing your dog outside, here are a few tips to consider:
1. If You Have a Higher Risk Dog
A pet’s cold tolerance varies based on their coat, body fat, breed, age, activity level, and overall health. Some dogs are more susceptible to experiencing cold weather dangers like hypothermia or frostbite. These higher risk dogs include:
- Small dogs
- Dogs with fine or thin hair
- Short-legged dogs
- Dogs with weak immune systems or chronic conditions
- Senior dogs
- Dogs with arthritis
- Dogs who are new to Minnesota and are not used to cold weather
2. The Signs of Cold Intolerance
As temperatures drop and you spend time outside with your pet, it’s important to monitor them carefully and watch for signs of cold intolerance, such as:
- Tucked tail
- Whining/anxious behavior
- Reluctant to move
- Lifting paws
- Snow or ice buildup in paws
3. How to Dress Your Dog for Cold Weather
In Minnesota, “cold” can vary from person to person and the same goes for our dogs. You know your dog’s tolerance best so always use your personal judgment when preparing your dog to go outside. Here are a few general clothing & winter gear recommendations for dogs based on a range of different temperatures:
- Above 45°F: Most pets will be comfortable without any clothing or protective gear.
- 32-45°F: If you have a higher risk dog with a low cold tolerance, you may want to opt for a sweater.
- 15-32°F: This is when things get a bit more complicated & clothing will vary based on a few different scenarios:
- Quick potty break right outside the door? A higher risk dog should wear a coat. Other dogs should be fine nakey for just a minute.
- Short walk? Put a coat on, especially if your dog is higher risk. If your pet will be walking near ice melt or icy areas, if your dog’s paws get easily irritated, or if your dog has hairy paws that easily collect snow – add boots!
- Highly active for a longer period of time? If your dog is not at higher risk, they should be okay in just boots, depending on the activity.
- Low activity for a longer period of time? We recommend an insulated coat and boots. Bring a blanket if your dog will be stationary. If your pet is at higher risk, we advise keeping them at home.
- Ice fishing? If you have a heated shelter on the ice, your dog should be okay without extra clothing or gear. We do recommend bringing along a cozy, warm blanket or dog bed for them to lie on though. If your shelter is not heated, leave your dog at home!
- Below 15°F: Just stay home! Only let your dogs out for a quick potty break. Be sure to clear a small area near the door to let them quickly in and out. If you live in an apartment or do not have easy in-and-out access, bundle up your pet in a coat and boots. Try to be as quick as possible!
- The exception to all of this? Northern breeds. Huskies, Malamutes, Samoyeds, Akitas, etc., can typically handle subzero temperatures without any additional clothing or protective gear. You may want to consider boots for activities like mushing, but it’s not always necessary.
With all that being said, here are some winter gear suggestions. Make sure you find your dog’s proper fit. Remember that etsy.com offers all kinds of handmade pet gear as well, which can often be custom-fitted to your pet.
Even with protective clothing and gear, never leave your pet unattended in a car or outside during frigid temperatures. This increases their risk of hypothermia or frostbite. If you notice signs of frostbite, immediately bring your pet into a warm shelter and slowly re-warm the suspect area with lukewarm water to prevent rapid thawing. Then seek immediate veterinary care.
We hope you and your pets have a safe and warm winter!
More winter-weather tips for pets:
- Winter Paw Protection Tips for Dogs
- How to Keep Your Dog or Cat Safe this Cold Minnesota Winter
- Minnesota Cold Weather Pet Safety