how long can a dog be outside in the cold

How long can a dog stay outside before it is dangerous during cold weather?

Our question this week was:

*I typically take my dog for a walk every day, but the weather is now turning cold outside and we are not going everyday because I am fearful I will be outside too long with her. How long can a dog be outside in the cold for a walk in the winter so she doesn’t get too cold or frostbite? Is 30 minutes too long, if the temperature is above 10 degrees outside?*

Wendy C.


Hi – thanks for your email. You wrote ….how long can a dog be outside before it is dangerous or can cause a problem? That is a great question but the answer has many variables. Some dogs (especially dogs used to being outside) tolerate the cold better than dogs that are primarily indoor dogs and not acclimated to the cold. Some breeds are better suited for the cold with thick arctic hair coats.

There are a couple concerns about being out in the cold. Hypothermia (an overall low body temperature resulting from being out in the cold for a prolonged period of time) and frostbite.

Both of these occurs when exposed to extreme cold and are exacerbated by a wind chill or being wet.

If your dog is in good health and to answer your question – if it is 32 degrees F. – I think you can be out for 30 to 45 minutes. If you are comfortable and your dog seems to be happy being out – that is probably fine. If it is 10 degrees F.– I’d probably keep the walk fairly short – 5 to 10 minutes.

One thing to consider is that if it is cold for you and you are bundled up – it is probably cold for your dog if he or she is used to being indoors.

Recently – I heard an ad on the radio for a kennel and another was a vet hospital that had extra room and was opening it to community dogs for exercise when it was too cold to be outside. You might check your paper or local community bulletin boards to see if anything like this exists in your area. I thought this was a great idea!

A couple articles that might be helpful to you are Hypothermia in Dogs and Frostbite in Dogs. Another one – How the Wind chill affects the overall temperature is an interesting article.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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