Safe Temperatures for Dogs: What's Too Hot, What's Too Cold?

Keep your dog safe from temperature extremes in winter and summer.

Published January 26, 2023
Dog drinking water from plastic bottle

Dogs don't experience hot and cold weather like we do. They do better in the cold, but have more trouble in the heat. Typically, most dogs can tolerate outdoor temperatures at or below 80 degrees Fahrenheit when it's hot, and temperatures at or above 40 degrees Fahrenheit when it's cold. Of course, your dog's breed, their coat type, if they're in a car or exercising, and outdoor weather conditions all play a role in determining what temperature is safe for your dog.

Extreme Temperatures are Dangerous for Dogs

Dogs handle extreme temperatures differently than humans do. Their coats offer some protection in the cold, but they don't sweat like we do, and need more protection in high heat.

What Cold Temperatures are Safe?

Dogs tolerate colder temperatures better because of their fur coats. Extreme cold can still be harmful to dogs, however, especially if they have very short coats, are smaller, older, or are very young. The average dog will be comfortable outside at temperatures around 40 degrees or higher, unless they're wet, the wind is blowing more than normal, or if they're outside too long.

Also, some breeds do better in the cold. Check your dog often if temperatures are below 40 degrees. You also need to make sure their paw pads and ears aren't too cold, and that they aren't getting frostbite. If it's too cold, bring them inside, or make sure they have shelter that's safe and warm.

Golden retriever running in the snow

What Hot Temperatures are Safe?

High heat can be very dangerous for dogs, because they can't sweat like we do. Instead, they pant. When outdoor temperatures exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit, be cautious and watch your dog for signs of heat exhaustion. When temperatures hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit, it's too hot out for most dogs.

Larger dogs, those with heavy fur, or dogs with brachycephalic heads (shortened muzzles) are all more susceptible to high heat. Your dog might overheat if they're running around a lot when it's hot out. If this happens to your dog, try keeping ice cubes in their dog bowl. You should also make sure your dog has free-access to water, in both the cold and the heat.

High heat and humidity can cause dehydration, sunburn, and overheating. Time in the sun and high levels of exercise can also cause problems. To cool off, seek shade, give your dog lots of water, and let them cool down.

Beware of a Hot Car

In the summer, it can take just 10 minutes for the inside of your car to reach dangerous temperatures for your dog. Inside a hot car, dogs can't regulate their body temperature. Even if you have the windows open, the temperature inside can rise to levels that can be fatal for dogs.

How vehicles heat up infographic

If a dog is trapped in a hot car, their body will overheat and they may suffer from heat stroke, which can be fatal. Signs of heat stroke include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Strong, rapid pulse with weak heartbeat
  • Seizures
  • Coma and death

Factors That Influence Your Dog's Tolerance

Dogs are generally more sensitive to temperature fluctuations than humans, but there are some factors that affect their ability to tolerate cold or heat.

  • Age: Older dogs have a lower body temperature than younger dogs and don't tolerate cold weather well.
  • Breed: Some dog breeds are better suited for different climates than others. For example, Siberian Huskies are bred for the snow and can tolerate cold weather much better than other dog breeds.
  • Coat: Dogs with thick coats will be able to tolerate low temperatures a little better. Dogs with thinner coats are more comfortable in hot weather.
  • Size: Smaller dogs have smaller bodies, which means they can lose heat faster. Larger dogs retain heat.
  • Exercise: Dogs that participate in physical activity outside will tend to be more tolerant of hot weather than sedentary dogs or those that live indoors all day long.
  • Health: If your dog has any underlying health conditions, they may be more prone to overheating or chilling. Dogs with heart problems, respiratory issues, diabetes, or other medical conditions may have difficulty regulating their body temperature.
  • Location: Dogs who live in warm climates may not be able to handle colder temperatures, and dogs who live in colder areas may have issues when visiting hot climates.

Use Caution in Extreme Temperatures

Extreme temperatures can cause heat-related or cold-related illness, so it's important to take precautions. To be on the safe side, if it's too hot or too cold for you, it's likely too extreme for your dog to handle. No matter what breed your dog is, even if certain breeds are tougher than others, they shouldn't be exposed to extremely high or low temperatures.

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Safe Temperatures for Dogs: What's Too Hot, What's Too Cold?