How Cold is Too Cold for Your Dog or Cat?

pets=in-cold-weatherThere is no blanket answer to this question. The best policy is to call your veterinarian in the greater Philadelphia area if you have questions about whether your dog or cat should go outside when the mercury drops. Your vet is acquainted with your dog or cat’s individual breed, age, and general state of health, and they’ll know how to advise you concerning exposing your dog or cat to the extreme cold. That said, in general, anything in the 30° range or colder is just too cold for pets for extended periods of time. Even if your dog is a Husky mix or your cat is a Maine Coon, you just shouldn’t allow them to stay outside for very long in the deep winter. They may be wearing a fur coat at all times, but when temperatures drop below freezing, your cat or dog can get frostbite, and severe hypothermia can become a genuine concern.

While your dog or cat may not have to wake up at the crack of dawn to shovel the driveway, cats and dogs still feel the cold, especially if they’re mostly outside dogs and cats. A doghouse will not be sufficient protection for your canine companion this time of year, and mostly outside cats need shelter, too. It’s crucial to bring them inside this time of year to protect them. Even if your dog or cat is not allowed in your main home or on the bed, you should make them up someplace warm to sleep at night, with lots of blankets, food, and water.

Yes, your outside cat may not like being cooped up in the winter, but it’s better than the alternative. Many cats die every year from exposure, or from sneaking into the undercarriages of automobiles and being injured when the engine’s cranked. And even if a dog loves a long walk in the spring or summer, excessive exposure to the snow and ice can lead to health complications.

In general, it’s fine to let your cat have a bit of backyard playtime in the snow, or to take your dog for a walk to do their business or run around a bit. But just as you’re mindful of their unique needs in the summer, when the temperature climbs and your dog or cat is at risk for heat stroke, it’s important to think about what they can handle in the wintertime, too. Bring them in sooner, and get them dried off and warmed up. And if you think your dog or cat may have stayed outside too long, contact your vet, or bring them into VRC. We’re a specialty veterinary healthcare hospital open 24/7, 365 days a year for emergencies.

The winter months make pets vulnerable to unique stressors such as cold temperatures, dry skin, and frostbite. VRC in the greater Philadelphia area can help. We’re a specialty veterinary healthcare hospital, and our emergency medicine and critical care center is always open.