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Is It Too Cold to Walk the Dog?

Although winter is supposed to be pretty mild for 2018 and the beginning of 2019, the temperature will still drop quite a bit in areas across the United States. As we get ready for things to chill down, pet owners might be wondering: Just how cold is too cold for our dogs? Are winter booties enough to keep your pooches from freezing during their morning stroll?

Thanks to Kim Smyth, DVM, a staff veterinarian with the pet insurance company Petplan, you’ll never have to worry again. Dr. Smyth created the easy-to-read chart shown below based on a scale developed at Tufts University that breaks down when it’s safe to take your pet outside. In addition to pet size, the chart also takes wind chill, the actual temperature, and how it really feels into account. 

Petplan dog chart

(Photo Credit: Petplan)

“Much like the handy color-coded chart that my son’s teachers reference before making a decision regarding playground time in the winter, it factors in the outdoor temperature and other variables and lays the answers out in a simple system,” Smyth wrote in a Petplan blog post. “Red for potentially life-threatening, orange for danger, yellow for caution, and green for safe.”

Signs of Hypothermia in Pets

Of course the chart has a few “gray” areas, which in this case are actually blue. The blue areas of the chart show when the temperature is low and wet, which can “tip” the chart depending on your pup’s size and breed. And as you’d probably assume, smaller dogs with thinner coats are more at risk. 

Smyth also claims lifestyle plays a big factor. “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,” Smyth continued. 

That said, pets are at risk of hypothermia just like humans whenever they’re left outside in the cold for long periods of time. “Symptoms of hypothermia in pets range from weakness and shivering to inaudible heartbeat and trouble breathing, depending on severity,” Smyth wrote. If you come across a pet who looks as though they might have gotten lost and are suffering from hypothermia, Smyth suggests calling a vet and safely moving the animal to a warm area immediately. Of course, you’ll need to be careful any time you approach an animal you don’t know, but that shouldn’t stop us from helping poor pets from cold weather.

Indoor Exercises for Your Dog

If it’s too cold to play outside, why not try a fun inside game? Our pooches are just like little kids when it comes to being cooped up inside all day, so it’s important to be prepared. There are several ways to give your dog the exercise they need without braving any terrible winter weather. For instance, racing up and down the stairs is a great way for both you and your pup to get a little exercise (as long as you don’t have any downstairs neighbors who would complain). You can also play tug-of-war and fetch if your living room is big enough. If you’re busy or short on time, there are plenty of indoor doggy daycare centers that would be more than happy to take care of your pooch while you’re away at work. 

Winter can be a dangerous for pets and pet owners alike. When it comes to making decisions on your pup’s behalf, use common sense. Like Smyth says, if the chart suggests it’s a “lime green” kind of day, but you know your pet will still be too cold, keep him inside! No one knows your favorite four-legged friend better than you do, so be sure to trust your instincts while taking this handy chart  into account. 

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