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The short answer is, “It depends.” Huskies have been known to comfortably sleep in the snow, whereas a hairless Xoloitzcuintli in the same conditions would develop hypothermia. Factors like the dog’s breed, individual characteristics, and weather conditions impact how long dogs can spend in the snow.
In general, dogs should be in the snow for no more than 30 minutes at a time on mild snow days and 10-15 minutes if the temperature dips below freezing. They should always be monitored for signs of discomfort.
Some dog breeds are well-adapted for snow. Huskies and Malamutes, for example, thrive in cold temperatures. These breeds have double coats, meaning their fur has two layers: an undercoat of dense, fine fur and a topcoat of wiry guard hairs. Dogs with double coats can happily play in the snow because their fur gives them extra protection from the cold.
Just as some dogs have a very high tolerance for cold, others have a very low tolerance. Features that make dogs sensitive to cold include:
Coat length: Dogs with short coats, like chihuahuas or greyhounds, get colder faster than long-haired dogs.
Age: Puppies under eight weeks old should never be left in the cold. They are too young to regulate their body temperature. Elderly dogs also tend to have difficulty regulating their temperature.
Health issues: Some health issues make dogs more vulnerable to cold. Dogs in poor health should be kept warm and out of the snow.
Pet parents should adjust how much time their dogs spend in the snow depending on the weather conditions. Dogs can safely stay longer in dry snow than slush. Dry fluffy snow brushes easily off a dog’s fur, especially if the dog has a wiry overcoat. Wet, slushy snow soaks through their fur.
Ice is also a concern. It’s no secret that ice makes paths slippery, and dogs with mobility issues may struggle to keep their footing on icy roads. In icy conditions, put dog booties on the dog to give them a better grip or keep them inside.
Pet parents who take their dogs into snow should watch for signs that their dogs are becoming too cold. Those warning signs include:
Shivering: Shivering is an early sign of hypothermia.
Pulling on the leash to return home: Dogs who are uncomfortable with the temperature will want to get home as fast as possible.
Limping: Limping is a symptom of frostbite or ice chunks stuck between a dog’s toes.
With experience, pet parents will learn their dog’s tolerance for snow. Dogs that do not do well in cold weather will need shorter walks than usual, and pet parents should find fun indoor activities for these dogs instead. For specific questions about a dog's health and wellness, Fuzzy members can access 24/7 Vet Chat.