Golden Retrievers and Winter: How Cold is Too Cold

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Golden Retrievers have been bred to assist their owners in retrieving fish and other game. Their webbed toes and double coats enhanced their ability to thrive in frigid conditions. Even with these adaptations, Golden Retrievers are still susceptible to cold, but how cold is too cold?

Golden Retrievers should not be taken outside in temperatures below 20F (-7C) for any period of time without proper protective gear, such as jackets and snow boots. A general rule of thumb is to not let them outside longer than ten minutes, even with their protective equipment on.

Golden Retrievers can get cold in the winter. If your dog becomes too cold, it can develop severe health complications such as hypothermia and frostbite. Knowing the signs of these complications and how to avoid them can be the difference between life and death during winter.

Golden Retrievers can still get cold in the winter.

Do Golden Retrievers Get Cold in Winter? 

Even though they are covered in a thick double coat, Golden Retrievers can get cold in the winter. This is because dogs have higher body temperatures than humans. If your Golden Retriever’s body temperature drops below 100F, they are at risk for health complications.

If your Golden Retriever becomes too cold, they will be susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite. We’ll talk about how to keep your Golden Retriever safe in a minute!

The Ideal Temperature for Golden Retrievers  

Golden Retrievers are part of a particular coat group called double-coated. This means that they have two layers to their coats; the top, water-proof layer, protects the bottom layer, which keeps your dog warm.

A Golden Retriever’s double coat helps keep them warmer in the winter months, but not as much as you might think. The ideal external temperature for a Golden Retriever is between 68-72F. In addition, your Golden Retriever’s internal body temperature should be between 101-102.5F.

How Long Can Golden Retrievers Play in the Snow?

That being said, it doesn’t mean that your Golden Retriever can’t go out in cold weather! Golden Retrievers love playing outdoors, snow or sun. I see my fur baby as what he is, a furry five-year-old that just wants to have fun all day. 

While playing outside with your Golden Retriever is fun, monitoring how long they are playing is essential, so they don’t become too cold. So how long can Golden Retrievers play in the snow?

Your Golden Retriever should not play in the snow for more than 30 minutes. Be sure to watch them for signs of hypothermia. It would be best to give them protective wear like a jacket to protect their sensitive parts, like their ears and tail, from frostbite. Once playtime is over, make sure to warm your dog up.

Do Golden Retrievers need Snow Boots?

Snow boots are incredibly important in cold climates. Chemicals used for deicing sidewalks as well as salt can damage your Golden Retriever’s paw pads. Snow can also freeze your dog’s toes, causing frostbite. This can be very painful for your dog.

If I lived in a colder climate, I would use Easiestsuck dog boots when taking my dog outside in the colder months. Fortunately, it doesn’t get cold enough in Central Florida to warrant snow boots, but it does get chilly in the winter, so I use Dogcheer’s Fleece Collar Dog Coat to keep my dog comfortable.

Golden Retrievers can swim in cold water, but colder than 50 degrees Fahrenheit can be a real problem

Golden Retriever Swimming in Winter Months

Golden Retrievers are a water-loving breed; I know it’s hard to keep my dogs out of the pool in the colder months. So, I make sure to monitor how long they swim and the pool’s temperature.

There are many things to consider when letting your Golden Retriever swim in the winter months, such as water temperature, the age of the dog, and the surrounding environment.

You should never let your Golden Retriever swim in waters that are colder than 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If you cannot read the temperature of the water with a thermometer, stick your hand in for a minute; if the water is too cold for you to stand, then it is too cold to let your Golden Retriever swim in.

I don’t recommend letting your Golden Retriever swim in cold waters for longer than 10 minutes at a time. Letting your Golden Retriever swim in water that is too cold can lead to hypothermia and frostbite. We’ll go over the symptoms and treatments to these next.

How to Keep Your Golden Retriever Safe During the Winter Months

Winter Health Risks

Decreasing temperatures put dogs at risk for a myriad of health complications such as hypothermia and frostbite. In addition, products used to combat freezing temperatures, such as antifreeze, also pose a threat to your dog’s health.

Hypothermia can onset if extreme low temperatures are sustained for a long period of time.

Hypothermia

Hypothermia occurs when your dog’s body temperature drops abnormally and dangerously low. If left untreated, coma, heart failure, and even death may occur. However, if caught early enough, it is not life-threatening.

Signs of Hypothermia

If your dog is displaying any of these signs, it may be hypothermic. If caught early enough, you can attempt to rewarm them at home. However, some symptoms will require immediate veterinary attention in addition to rewarming.

SymptomRewarm at HomeSeek Veterinary Attention
ShiveringX
LethargyX
Stiff MusclesX
Pale/Gray GumsXX
Stumbling/Lack of CoordinationXX
Fixed & Dilated PupilsXX
Low Heart/Breathing RateXX
Collapse/faintingXX
Treating Hypothermia

If you suspect your dog is hypothermic, notify your vet and try to warm them up immediately.

Warming Up a Hypothermic Dog
  • Surround them with warm towels or blankets and keep them in a warm environment. If your dog is small enough, wrap them up like a doggy burrito to warm them from all sides.
  • Try to get them to drink warm liquids such as warm chicken broth, water, or milk. Test the temperature before giving the liquid to your dog so they don’t burn their tongue (if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for them). Giving them warm liquids will quicken the rewarming process by working from the inside out
  • Use a warm water bottle in a towel and place it on their abdomen. It is essential to use a towel, so you don’t burn your dog’s sensitive skin. A warming pad will also work; just set it as low as possible
  • Check their body temperature every 10 minutes for thirty minutes after the onset of symptoms. When their temperature reaches 101-102.5F, you can stop the rewarming process. If their temperature does not rise, seek emergency veterinary attention immediately!

Frostbite

Frostbite occurs when extreme cold freezes the skin and other tissues, such as the ears, nose, tail, and paws. If left untreated, frostbite can cause tissue to die and fall off. However, frostbite can be cured with minimal deficits when caught and treated early.

Like hypothermia, some symptoms of frostbite can be caught and treated at home, but some require veterinary attention in addition to home treatment.

Symptoms of Affected AreaTreat at HomeSeek Veterinary Attention
Swelling X
Cold to the touchX
Pain when touchedX
Cold to the TouchX
Blisters or Skin UlcersXX
Pale skin with a bluish-white colorXX
Ice forming around areaXX
Blackened or dead skinXX
Treating Hypothermia

Treating frostbite is a very fragile process. If done incorrectly, more damage can be inflicted on the affected area.

Do’s & Don’ts of Treating Frostbite
  • DO apply a warm towel to the affected area
  • DO apply warm water to the affected area (under 108F)
  • DO seek emergency attention if the affected area darkens as it thaws. The site should redden as blood flow returns.
  • DO take your dog to the vet after treating frostbite to obtain pain medication and antibiotics to prevent infection
  • DON’T massage or rub the affected area
  • DON’T stop thawing the area once you’ve started
  • DON’T give medication or apply ointment without veterinary approval
  • DON’T attempt to reheat with a blowdryer or direct heat as the area must thaw slowly
  • DON’T expose the affected area to extreme cold again as it is more likely to get frostbite again

Antifreeze Poisoning

***ANIMAL POISON CONTROL HOTLINE (888)-426-4435***

Antifreeze is a colored liquid used as a coolant in car engines to stop the liquid inside from freezing in the winter months. However, antifreeze is highly toxic to animals and will cause kidney failure if ingested.

Dogs will drink antifreeze when given a chance. However, this chemical is toxic and fatal, even in small doses. A puppy can consume a deadly amount by licking its paw after stepping in the chemical. A full-grown Golden Retriever can be killed after drinking half a palm-full of antifreeze.

If you see or suspect that your dog has ingested antifreeze, seek immediate veterinary care.

Antifreeze poisoning symptoms 

Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning change as time increases from the time of ingestion.

  • In the first hours after ingestion, your dog may be lazy, uncoordinated, and have seizures. They will probably drink a lot of water, vomit, and urinate a lot.
  • In the following days after ingestion, your dog will appear better, then crash into a worsened state as kidney failure begins. Their urine output will decrease to small amounts. Depression and vomiting will increase

If symptoms are not caught within the first hours, fatality rates increase exponentially. Therefore, it is crucial to get your dog to a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment as soon as you suspect ingestion.

Diagnosis & Treatment of Antifreeze Poisoning

Your veterinarian will run a simple blood or urine test to diagnose your dog. If the tests come back positive, they will induce vomiting to get rid of any lingering antifreeze. They will then have your dog eat charcoal to bind up antifreeze left in the stomach.

If you directly see your dog drink antifreeze, you can induce vomiting immediately to try and clear the chemical from their system. However, you should still rush them to the vet after vomiting for testing and treatment.

The sooner poisoning is caught and treated; the more likely your dog will survive. Unfortunately, once kidney failure starts, most dogs will die. The best way to prevent antifreeze poisoning is to keep your dog away from it.

Final Thoughts

  • Golden Retrievers have double coats that help keep them warm and insulated during the winter months, but Golden Retrievers can get cold.
  • You should not take your Golden Retriever outside in temperatures below 20F.
  • The ideal external temperature for a Golden Retriever is between 68-72F. 
  • A Golden Retriever’s internal body temperature should not drop below 100F; it should be within the range of 101-102.5
  • If you have to take your Golden Retriever out in cold weather, make sure to use protective gear like snow boots and a snow jacket to prevent health problems.
  • Golden Retrievers should wear snow boots to prevent frostbite on their toes when playing in the snow.
  • Your Golden Retriever should not play in the snow for longer than 30 minutes and should be warmed up immediately afterward
  • The winter months put Golden Retrievers at risk of hypothermia, frostbite, and antifreeze poisoning.
  • Some beginning symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite can be treated at home, but you should seek veterinary attention as symptoms worsen.
  • If you think your dog may be hypothermic, try warming them up while monitoring their temperature.
  • If you believe your dog has frostbite, slowly thaw the affected area to prevent further damage
  • Take your dog to the veterinarian immediately,
  • ANIMAL POISON CONTROL HOTLINE (888)-426-4435