How Cold is Too Cold for Dogs in a House?

As winter gets closer, thermostat settings start to change. For humans, getting comfortable in the cold can be as simple as grabbing a blanket, putting on a hoodie, or turning the temperature up a degree or two. But when your dog is uncomfortable with the temperature, there’s not much they can do.

So, as loving dog owners, we want to keep our canines comfortable by setting the thermostat to a temperature that’s as comfortable for them as it is for us. But we can’t ask our dogs what temperature they prefer, so how cold should you keep your home?

Truthfully, every dog is different, but there are some simple rules you can follow to ensure that you’re always keeping the house pleasant for your pup.

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Different Dogs Handle Different Temperatures

Some dogs are built to handle extreme temperatures, icy cold wind, and snow. Think about breeds like Alaskan Malamutes or Siberian Huskies. It’s likely that if you have one of these dogs, you could be wrapped in a sleeping bag, three blankets, and a parka and you’d still be much colder than your canine.

But compare that to a tiny dog with a thin coat such as a Chihuahua. This breed is from the warm climate of Mexico, they’re not built to withstand cold of any kind! Obviously, dogs like this are going to get cold at much higher temperatures than a dog with a thick double-coat.

Factors That Affect Susceptibility to Cold

Many different things can affect a dog’s susceptibility to cold.

Breed – As we already discussed, some breeds are more or less susceptible to cold due to factors such as the geographical location where the breed was created. Breeds from arctic tundra are going to be better adapted to cold temperatures.

Coat – This does tie into the breed, but sometimes there are mixed breeds that have traits such as a double-coat that might keep them warm in cooler temperatures.

Size – Bigger dogs are less susceptible to cold than smaller dogs. They have more body mass, which generates more heat. Naturally, this helps to keep them warmer. Likewise, they have more insulation from the colder temperatures than dogs with less mass.

Age – Older dogs are more susceptible to cold than younger dogs.

Siberian Husky indoor
Image credit: Pixabay

What is Cold for a Dog?

We’ve already thoroughly discussed how differences between dogs can change the way that temperature affects them. But that’s a very general answer and isn’t going to help you much when you’re trying to figure out what temperature to keep your house so your dog can be comfortable. So, for now, let’s discuss cold-averse dogs.

This includes any dogs that aren’t built for the cold weather. Dogs with short hair, small dogs, old dogs, and any dogs that don’t prefer cold temperatures fall into this category.

For these dogs, 45 degrees Fahrenheit is where you’re going to start to see the cold’s effects. That said, these temperatures aren’t going to hurt any type of dog. Still, if your dog will be outside in 45-degree weather, they’ll at least need a safe shelter where they can get out of the elements.

Once temperatures drop below freezing, health risks can become a real possibility. At 32 degrees, you’ll start to notice the signs of your dog being cold, such as:

  • Whining
  • Slow movement
  • Lethargy
  • Anxiety
  • Shivering
  • Lack of movement
  • Weakness

At 20 degrees Fahrenheit, the dangers are very real and your dog could suffer serious consequences.

Health Risks for Dogs Exposed to Cold Temperatures

At this point, you’re most likely wondering what negative health effects your dog is going to suffer from being in those cold temperatures.

In temperatures near or below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, your dog could suffer frostbite or hypothermia. Frostbite occurs when ice balls form on your dog, which can cause damage if not treated immediately. Hypothermia is worse and happens when your dog’s temperature gets too low causing reduced blood flow, slowed heart rate, slowed breathing, and even loss of consciousness or death.

For dogs with arthritis, the cold can mean increased suffering. The joints become less and less mobile while they start to lock up. You’ll need to limit the walks and let your dog spend most of their time indoors where it’s warmer.

Ideal House Temperatures for Dogs

As we’ve seen, the consequences can be severe for cold-averse dogs in low temperatures. But that’s outside where things get much colder than in your home. Inside, frostbite isn’t a concern, but comfort is.

dog beside fireplace
Image credit: sjdents0, Pixabay

For the most part, your dog will be comfortable in similar temperatures to you, though they can still be comfortable in temperatures that would probably have you shivering a bit.

For larger dogs with thicker coats, 69-70 degrees is a great temperature.Smaller dogs and those with thinner coats will be ok at these temperatures but would likely prefer it a bit warmer in the realm of 73-75 degrees.

But remember, even cold-averse dogs aren’t going to experience any adverse health effects from the cold until they start reaching temperatures near freezing.

When you leave the house, you don’t need to leave the thermostat set quite as high. Even in the mid-60s, your dogs will still be comfortable, especially if you provide them with a warm bed where they can head if they start to get chilly.

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Conclusion

Falling winter temperatures can often mean rising electricity costs as you run the furnace more to keep the house warm. The good news is that if you’re keeping the house hot for your dog’s sake, you can probably save some money on your heating bill. Your dog will be comfortable at most temperatures between 65-75 degrees. And if you’re concerned that 65 is too cold for your canine, remember that they’re actually safe below 45 degrees with no concern.

Don’t forget, not all dogs need it warm at all. If your dog comes from a cold climate and they’ve got a thick double-coat, they’re more likely to suffer from the heat than the cold, so do them a favor and let the house cool off a bit!


Featured Image Credit: mveldhuizen, Shutterstock