Labradors are big dogs and some people don’t have the space to keep them inside, or they find that the dog loves spending so much outside that it’s just as well get them a house and leave them in the yard.
But in the northern hemisphere of the world, it can get cold. Really cold, even for dogs.
So, do labradors get cold at night? Yes, Labradors get cold at night when left outside, they start to feel the cold when the temperature drops below 35 degrees Fahrenheit (1.667°C), and it becomes too cold for them when it’s below 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6.7°C).
Labradors will need protection from the cold once the temperature is below 35 °F. But what kind of protection and how you can keep your labrador safe at night are all questions we need to answer, and we’ll cover them thoroughly below.
If you have a labrador and intend to keep it outside, keep reading to find out if and how you can do this safely.
Can Labradors Tolerate the Cold Weather?
Yes, Labradors can tolerate the cold weather quite well thanks to their thick double coat that can insulate them from the cold, keep them warm, and regulate their temperatures, but only to a certain degree before it’s too cold for them at around 35 degrees Fahrenheit.
Labradors were bred to be excellent in cold weather and they do fare quite well in low temperatures, but they are not Alaskan malamutes and can’t handle the freezing temperatures like some sled dogs do. This means that there are some precautions you need to take to ensure your dog stays safe and healthy while living outside.
And at some point, you just have no other option but to bring them inside with you, but we’ll get to this later on.
How cold is too cold for a Labrador Retriever?
Under 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6.7°C) is too cold for labradors and they should be brought inside. If they stay outside for long in temperatures lower than 20 °F or -6°C, they will be at the risk of many health issues including frostbite.
But the temperature is not the only thing that determines whether it’s cold for your labrador or not. There are actually quite a lot of other factors that can make a difference in what your dog is feeling.
7 Factors that determine how cold is it for your Labrador
There are 7 factors that determine how cold your labrador is actually feeling. These are what can make some labs tolerate lower temperatures than others.
Here they are.
- Puppies and senior labs feel the cold more easily than adult labs in their prime. Seniors and puppies should not be left outside in the cold weather as a general rule as they can’t regulate their body’s temperature as they can in their prime years.
- General Health
- Sick dogs, or dogs with health issues, can’t tolerate the cold weather as healthy dogs can. They can also catch diseases and are more prone to serious issues from the cold than healthier dogs.
- Fat is a good insulator from the cold, and so overweight labs can tolerate the cold weather slightly better than fit labs can.
- Windier nights are colder on any living beings, even if the temperature is tolerable. That’s because the wind will always carry away any heat on your skin, forcing your body to constantly work on producing more heat which the wind will keep carrying away.
- If you live in an area with high humidity such as coastal cities, the humidity will make the air feel colder.
- a clear sky makes the air feel colder than a cloudy one. That’s because the clouds can keep more of the sun’s temperature trapped in the atmosphere at night and will even re-emit some of the heat emitted from the earth’s surface towards us.
- If your dog has been swimming, had a bath recently, or if it’s been raining, your dog’s coat will still be a little damp (especially the undercoat) and this will make them feel the cold more than if they were completely dry.
When should you get Your labrador inside?
Although we are going to discuss some ways in which you can make it safer and warmer for your dog to spend the night outside, there are times when you just have to give up and take them inside.
You are not stronger than nature, and sometimes nature can be a bit too cruel on us and our dogs. In these cases, you just need to admit defeat and take your dog inside.
You should let the dog inside when:
- The temperature drops too low (to 10°F or -12°C or lower)
- If the temperature gets this cold, you definitely should take your dog inside and just let nature take its course.
- If it’s too windy
- The normal wind speed is 12 miles per hour (19 kilometers per hour). Higher than that is when you get into the dangerous territory, and 55 mph (89 km/h) is when it’s considered stormy.
- If your dog whimpers when it’s too windy, they are scared and you should also let them inside, even if the wind is not that strong. Maybe the loud noises are just too frightening to them.
- If it’s raining or snowing
- Your dog’s house, no matter how expensive it is, doesn’t offer adequate protection from the rain or snow. If your dog gets wet, they are much more likely to suffer from frostbite or hypothermia.
- If there’s thunder and they’re scared
- Most dogs get really scared of thunder. The lights and loud noises can frighten the poor pup who doesn’t know what is happening, and without you by their side, they are very likely to seek comfort by running away to find safety somewhere else. This is how hundreds of dogs are lost every year.
- If they’re sick
- If your dog is sick or exhibiting symptoms that something is maybe wrong with them, you shouldn’t leave them outside alone in the cold weather.
- If they are young or seniors
- If your dog is less than 1 year old or if they are over 10 years old, they shouldn’t be left outside in the cold.
- If their coat is short
- Some dogs get their coat cut for medical reasons. If your dog’s coat is not fully grown and healthy, you should not leave them outside in the winter.
10 Things to Keep your Labrador Warm Outside
If it’s not too cold outside and you still want/need to keep your labrador warm outside, there are some things you can do to keep them safe and warm.
1. Give them proper shelter
Giving your dog proper shelter means you don’t just give them your run-of-the-mill kennel or dog house. Wooden dog houses will not protect them from the cold and plastic ones are pretty much useless.
You can pick one of our dog houses here or you can grab them an insulated kennel cover like this Mud River Dixie Insulated Kennel Cover which also comes in two really large sizes that fit the large kennels for the labrador.
You should also have something that covers the floor of the house. We recommend the Mud River Crate Cushion for its quality and affordable price, but you may already have something that works in the house.
Whatever you use, it must be strong, has a non-skid bottom so that it sticks to the ground, and it must be able to withstand the scratching and chewing of your dog.
If you don’t already have a dog house, you should consider getting a raised dog house as it will provide better insulation from the elements. This elevated dog house from Amazon basics is one of the best out there.
2. Limit Their Time Outside As much as possible
I understand that sometimes you have to leave them outside the house (even though I personally never does), but you should not, for any reason, keep them outside all the time.
You should actively try to curb their time outside when it’s cold. Your dog may love spending a couple of hours playing outside every day, but they should be then brought back inside.
No pet, including pets that are better adapted to the cold, should be left outside when it’s raining, snowing, windy, or just too cold.
3. Warm Food is important
Giving your dog access to warm water can make a big difference in the cold weather. This might also be a great time for you to start learning how to cook for your dog.
If you must get ready-made foods, try to stick to ones with only natural ingredients and no artificial colors, preservatives, or harmful chemicals.
Check out our recommended foods for retrievers here.
4. Never Miss an Exercise
Daily exercise is more important in cold weather than ever. They need plenty of exercise to stay active and warm.
Cold weather is not the time to skip the daily walks or runs. “because it’s cold outside” should be your motivation to do more exercise, not less.
5. Fresh Water is important
Fresh water is important in keeping your dog’s body healthy and helps them regulate their body’s temperature.
6. Grooming = a healthy coat = better circulation and regulation
Keeping a regular grooming routine is a must to keep your labrador’s coat healthy, and your labrador’s double coat is their first and stronger line of defence against the cold.
A healthy coat will provide better insulation and protection from the cold weather. Brushing their hair also improves the blood circulation and distributes the natural oils, all of which are important in regulating the dog’s body temperature.
7. Consider a Dog House Heater
Consider a safe dog house heater even if their dog house is kept inside the house. A safe heater like the hound heater shown above can actually go along way in keeping your dog’s house warm in the winter. You can check it here on Amazon.
I wouldn’t feel safe leaving it on in stormy weather outside, though.
8. Why not get them cold weather gear?
Although not popular for labradors, there are some cold-weather gear you can get for your dog. These include coats and boots that your dog can wear as an extra layer of protection in the winter.
I would recommend giving this great winter windproof and waterproof jackets from Migohi a chance.
9. Give them a self-heated blanket
A self-heated blanket can keep your dog warm even when it’s freezing cold outside. I have found the Riogoo heating pad to be particularly good and useful, while something more traditional like the Sheri Blanket can work better for some dogs who like to snuggle inside the bed rather than just lay one it.
10. Insulate their house yourself
Don’t have $500 to spend on a specialized dog house with all the gear it needs to keep the dog warm outside? Not to worry, you can still do some simple steps to insulate their house yourself and not have to worry about it.
Read the next section to find out why you need to do this and how to do it.
3 Methods to insulate your Dog’s House yourself to keep them warm outside
Dog Houses are not okay during the cold weather. They are not like our houses which can very efficiently protect us from the cold weather.
Recently, veterinarian and youtuber DR. Ernie did an experiment in which he spent the night inside a dog house to see how effective is the dog house really in protecting our pup from the cold.
The experience was traumatizing to him and to many of us, dog owners. While the temperature at the beginning was around 20°F, in just four hours it dropped to an intolerable 15°F which Labradors can not tolerate in any way.
In fact, very few dog breeds can tolerate this kind of freezing temperature.
By the end of his experiment, Dr.Ernie was shivering and went numb and he just couldn’t take it anymore.
Here is the video below, it’s highly recommended to watch it completely to understand what your dog can go through in cold nights.
With that being said, there are some things you can do to make it warmer for your dog while staying outside. The warmer, the better.
Here is what to do to make the dog house warmer in cold nights:
Method 1: Fiberglass Insulation
Insulating your dog using fiberglass is a pretty effective way to insulate your dog’s house. Fiberglass is quite affordable and anyone can install it with no technical knowledge needed.
It can be cut using a pair of heavy-duty scissors and it’s easy to cover the dog’s house with it once cut.
Method 2: Bubble Wrap
Bubble wrap can make surprisingly good insulation material. They are also everywhere, very cheap, and easy to install.
However, to make it really effective, you will need to use a special bubble wrap that is coated in a thin layer of aluminum. This kind of bubble wrap is specifically designed for insulating applications.
You can check it out on Amazon here.
Reflective foil can help your dog’s house stay warm from the inside by keeping the heat there. It basically reflects your dog’s body temperature back to them and prevents it from leaking outside to a certain degree.
This an affordable, effective, and easy-to-install option that most dog owners prefer. The great thing about foil is that it can be used in combination with another insulation method for better protection from the cold weather. You can check out this commercial-grade foam core insulation shield on Amazon here. It’s affordable and effective, especially for covering large dog houses.
Insulating your dog’s house might seem like an extra step, but it is more important than some people thing. Wood and plastic, the two main components in most dog houses, are very poor insulators.
Basically, unless your dog’s house is made of bricks like your house, it needs insulation if you intend to keep them outside in the cold for any amount of time.
4 Dangerous Cold-Related Health Issues in Dogs
There are 4 major medical issues that come with cold weather that you need to be aware of.
Just like humans, our dogs can get frostbite. This condition will develop when the dog’s body gets extremely cold, then the blood circulation will not be able to reach their outer limbs, meaning their paws, ears, and tail and the blood circulation will be only limited to the core of their bodies.
When this happens, there is a high possibility for the ice crystals to form in the tissues in these areas which will severely damage them. If left untreated, the dog will develop alternative
Symptoms of a frostbite:
- Feeling numb
- Skin turning pale (more grey or white than usual ).
- Losing sensation of cold, pain, and discomfort in the areas
- Joints or muscles will gradually stop working
Dogs also get hypothermia when it’s extremely cold for them. In mild cases, the pup will just shiver and their ear and feet will become cold.
However, if left in this extreme cold, the condition will become worse and the dog’s muscles will start to become stiff and their breathing and heart rate will start slowing down.
As the case gets worse, the dog will become less responsive to stimuli and may die.
The cold weather will make the hip and joints problems of the dog much worse and more painful than it is.
If the dog is left in extreme cold for long, permanent damage might be done. Dogs with hip and joint problems should not be left outside in the cold.
Antifreeze and Rock Salt Poisoning
This is a man-made problem and is probably the most dangerous of them because its consequences can happen very quickly.
Antifreeze and rocksalt are commonly used as ice melting chemicals on the roads so that cars can easily drive through the towns and cities. They are often used on roads but they are also used on driveways and, most importantly, sidewalks.
Antifreeze can contain a dangerous substance called “ethylene glycol” which is poisonous to dogs but tastes sweet.
Symptoms of Antifreeze poisoning:
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Wobbly walking (or drunken walking)
What to do in case of antifreeze poisoning?
If you notice any of these signs, you should rush your dog to the vet. There is nothing you yourself can do to help your dog, but your vet can. Rush them to the nearest vet clinic or animal hospital.
If you know your city or neighbors use antifreeze or rocksalt, the best course of action would be to take your dog inside and limit their outside time. You should also not let them outside unsupervised so they can be stopped whenever they lick the snow or the ground.
Talk to your family and neighbors about using non-toxic antifreeze as much as possible. The non-toxic kind will have propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol and will not be poisonous to pets.
What should I do if I see a pet left outside in the cold?
You should first take note of everything; the dog’s location and situation. Take photos and videos as evidence as they may be crucial later on. Then you should contact your local animal control agency or county sheriff’s office first.
If you’re in the holidays or it’s a long weekend and authorities will take time to move, it may be advisable to contact the nearest animal rescue group to your city, they are more likely to act quickly and they will know what to do.
If you tried both ways and failed, you should contact your local vet and ask them for advice on who to contact and they will provide some guidance.
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