How do you keep your dog warm when camping in the winter? Easy…you keep them inside! However, that’s no fun!
The whole point of taking your dog with you is to enjoy their company, whether it be hiking the trails, hanging out by the campfire, or letting them stretch their legs and run around the campsite.
However, extended periods of time outdoors when the temps drop can start to take a toll on your dog! With that being said, the best way to keep your dog warm while camping is to provide them with adequate shelter, limit their time outdoors (especially when the temperatures are below 40 deg), and buy them a few pieces of camping gear made just for dogs.
Cold Weather Camping Gear for Dogs
First, let me just say that there is so much junk being sold on the market today in the way of clothing for pets. If you want to dress your dog up to look cute, that’s your choice. However, when it comes to camping gear that will keep them warm in the cold, there are really just a few things that you will need.
Shelter – This is by far the most important camping gear that you can have for your dog if you intend on them sleeping in their own space outside. If you plan on them sleeping with you inside your RV or tent, then you can skip this. Keep in mind too that a dog’s tent doesn’t have to be as insulated as your tent does due to their fur. Check out this tent on Amazon.
Bed – A doggie bed is another piece of important equipment. It’s not only for giving them a comfortable place to lay their head, but it also provides a buffer between them and the ground on cold winter nights. Chances are, you already have a bed for Fido, but if not, check out PetFusion’s Ultimate bed on Amazon. It comes in four different sizes and is waterproof.
Blanket – A blanket, while not as important as the previous two pieces of gear (due to your dog not covering up with it), can provide an extra layer of warmth for when the temperature really gets cold.
Coat – Just like the shoes, unless you plan on camping in extremely cold conditions, your dog will probably not need a coat. With that being said, if putting a coat on your dog gives you a little peace of mind, then go for it. As long as it’s not uncomfortable for your dog, it will be fine. There are a number of different coats on the market, so choosing one that’s right for you shouldn’t be a problem.
Shoes – According to caninejournal.com, dogs have specialized circulation systems in their paws that help to keep their feet warm, even in freezing temperatures. With that being said, when the ground is cold, I can clearly see that it bothers my pooches feet. I feel that this is especially true for dogs who spend the majority of their time indoors. Their lack of outdoor activity, in my opinion, prevents their feet to build up a tolerance to the cold as well as sticks, rocks, etc. Either way, a good pair of doggy boots will keep their feet protected from the elements.
How Cold is Too Cold For Dogs
While some breeds of dogs fare much better in cooler temperatures, others can have a hard time, especially the smaller varieties! Here is a chart that better illustrates how cold is too cold based on the dogs size.
Do Large Dogs Handle Cold Weather Better Than Small Dogs
In most cases, larger dogs have a greater tolerance for cold weather, especially if they are a Husky or another cold weather type of dog breed. Large short haired dogs like Labradors and Boxers may need a little more insulation when the weather gets cold.
The best way to ensure your dog stays warm and toasty is to know your dog and how much cold they can tolerate. Most larger breeds will be perfectly okay in temperatures of 35 degrees Fahrenheit and above, while smaller breeds should be fine as long as the temperature is above 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
Also, be extra careful with puppies regardless of what breed they are. Puppies are more vulnerable to a host of ailments, including cold weather.
What Temperature Does Your Dog Need a Coat
According to Pet’s Best, your dog shouldn’t wear any type of clothing, including a coat if the outside temperature is 45 Deg F or higher. This is especially true if they are only going to be outside for a small amount of time (10-15 min) or if they are a larger, long-haired dog such as the Siberian Husky, Malamute, or Saint Bernard who are perfectly suited for extremely cold weather. With that being said, if you see that your dog is shivering a bit, then, by all means, throw a coat on him, or bring him inside and let him warm up. It seems as though a lot of this stuff is common sense.
Make Sure Your Dog is Fed Well
Most experts will tell you that dogs require less food in the winter, mainly due to the fact that they may not get as much exercise in the winter months as they are accustomed to getting in the warmer months. And while I did find research that backed this up, I also found research that suggested that dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors in the cold need more food. In fact, according to petMd, “dogs that are subject to low-temperature exposure need two to three times the normal calories as they need at a more moderate temperature.”
If a dog is exposed to cold weather for long periods of time, their bodies burn more calories due to shivering and other metabolic changes in their bodies. Obviously, if you take your dog camping in cold weather, it could fit this bill. It is suggested that you feed your dog a food that’s high in protein and fat.
Warning Signs Your Dog is Too Cold
Dogs are a lot like humans when they get too cold! Besides trembling and shivering, they also may become lethargic.
Here are a few more telltale signs of when a dog is getting too cold.
- Sleeping more than usual
- Curling up
- Whimpering or whining
- Cold ears or body
- Hiding or seeking shelter
- More restless than usual
If you notice any of these signs, your dog could be too cold.
Can Dogs Get Hypothermia
Yes, dogs can get hypothermia just like we can. It’s caused when they are exposed to cold weather for long periods of time. When this happens, their body temperature can drop significantly below the norm which anywhere from 101 F to 102 F. If their internal temp drops below 99 F, you could start to see some early stages of hypothermia.
Hypothermia can cause a host of health-related problems with your dog, including central nervous system shutdown, trouble breathing, poor blood flow, irregular heartbeat, not to mention shock and eventually a coma or even death.
This is why it’s a good idea to carry a thermometer with you in your doggie first aid kit at all times. If you notice your dog acting a little weird, the first thing you should do is check their temperature.
Can Dogs Get Frostbite
Another cold weather ailment that your doggy can be susceptible to is frostbite. However, unless you’re taking your dog on a 10-mile hike in sub-zero temps, the chances of them getting frostbitten are slim to none. With that being said, it’s still a good idea to familiarize yourself with the signs of frostbite.
Frostbite can develop when a dog is exposed to extremely cold weather for too long. What happens is that the blood vessels close to their skin begin to constrict. This process helps to keep their core body temperature warm by sending blood to the core, rather than their extremities. Obviously, this isn’t good for their noses, ears, paws, and legs! The lack of blood flow can allow these parts to freeze, which can cause frostbite.
Here are a few ways to keep an eye out for:
- Discoloration of the skin
- Ice forming on an area of skin
- Skin that feels cold and brittle to the touch
- Skin that causes your dog pain when you touch it
- Blisters or skin ulcers
If you notice any of these symptoms, the first thing that you need to do is cover up your dog and keep him warm. Once that is done, immediately call a vet and find out what to do next.
For some people, taking their dog camping with them is the norm! In ideal weather, letting Fido tag along is fun for you, fun for the kids, and fun for your dog. However, what do you do if the weather is going to be on the cold side? Is it still okay to bring them? How cold is too cold for dogs? We know you love your dog and would never want them to be uncomfortable.