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If you already have a Great Pyrenees, you probably know how much these dogs love the cold! They will play in the snow all day long if you let them! But, at a certain point, being outside could still be dangerous for them. You want to know their limits, and eventually, you will ask yourself;
How cold can a Great Pyrenees handle?
Great Pyrenees were bred for the mountains and spent winters outside guarding sheep. Now, they are kept mostly as companion dogs, and even though they’re tough, these dogs will start to become hyperthermic at temperatures of 15°F or lower. With the right housing and a healthy coat, these dogs can handle even lower temperatures.
If you’re not sure whether your dog is okay to be outside in such cold weather, keep reading, and let us give you the tools you need to make the best choice!
What Is Hypothermia In Dogs?
Before we get into specifics about Great Pyrenees, it’s important to understand what happens to dogs in general when they get too cold. Hypothermia is defined by PetMD as a significant drop in body temperature. A normal body temperature for a dog is between 99.5°F and 102.5°F. So, anything much below 99.5°F could be considered hypothermic.
It sounds simple but can have serious side effects! And, you might be wondering how to tell if your dog is hypothermic without an internal thermometer. There are some stages and signs associated with hypothermia that you can read more about below.
What Are The Signs Of Hypothermia?
Hypothermia won’t suddenly happen to Great Pyrenees or any other dog breeds. It comes in stages that can be observed and defined. Knowing these stages might make the difference between keeping your dog safe and having to make an emergency trip to the veterinarian.
Mild hypothermia is the first stage of hypothermia. In this stage, you can notice a dog’s extremities (paws, toes, etc.) becoming colder than its body. While this might not be a huge cause for concern, extended periods of this symptom can lead to more complications.
In the second stage of hypothermia, a dog’s body will actively start to warm itself. A dog experiencing moderate hypothermia will start to shiver, and its gums will be pale. They might also become clumsy and move slowly.
If your dog is ever experiencing this stage of hypothermia, they need to be warmed up immediately to avoid any lasting side effects of hypothermia.
The last stage of hypothermia is basically a shutdown of all systems. At this point, a dog’s body has run out of energy, and shivering stops. From there, their temperature will drop suddenly and they will become almost comatose. Their pupils might dilate.
Severe hypothermia is a medical emergency and can prove to be fatal for some dogs. A dog experiencing hypothermia at a moderate-severe stage should go to a veterinarian ASAP.
Can Hypothermia Be Treated?
Luckily, if you ever find your furry friend in one of these states, hypothermia is treatable.
Hypothermia should be treated by warming a dog up slowly. Heating pads can easily burn a dog and heating their temperature too quickly can cause other issues. Bringing them into a warm area and keeping them wrapped in blankets is a good start while you get them to a vet. At a veterinarian’s office, warm intravenous fluids will be administered and any other hypothermic side effects would be addressed.
But, don’t worry, hypothermia is totally avoidable, and knowing the risk factors will keep you one step ahead of it!
What Factors Put Dogs At Risk Of Hyperthermia?
There are a few things that put dogs more at risk of becoming hypothermic. If your Great Pyrenees is a part of one or more of these categories, they might not be able to withstand the cold as another Great Pyrenees can.
As with most things in life, the old and the young are more at risk of becoming hypothermic. Puppies don’t have mature body fat or coats to deal with the cold, this is one of the reasons why they love to snuggle up to something warm when they sleep. Older dogs usually don’t have great circulation, coats, or fat stores and tend to run cold already. If an old dog becomes cold, its body can have a harder time warming itself back up.
A thick coat made for cold temperatures can be a saving grace against hypothermia. Thick coats are able to trap air and warm it, acting like a fluffy down jacket.
Short thin coats don’t have the capacity to keep their owners warm. A Chihuahuas coat just isn’t built for warmth or insulation but the thick double coat of a Great Pyrenees definitely is built for winter.
Smaller dogs are more at risk of becoming hypothermic. With less fat, muscle, and fur, an animal can become cold more quickly. And if a small dog becomes cold, they have less energy to shiver to try to warm themselves back up.
I know what you’re thinking, your Great Pyrenees, is healthy, big, and has a thick coat! Does that mean they are more resistant to hypothermia?
Yes, it does! And not only that, but it seems like Great Pyrenees thrive in the cold.
Do Great Pyrenees Like The Cold?
To answer this question, let us just point you to this video of a Great Pyrenees playing and laying in the snow:
But, Great Pyrenees are built for cold weather!
Historically, Great Pyrenees were bred to live high up in the mountains. These dogs spent their days guarding flocks of sheep and stayed with their animals day and night, winter and summer. Great Pyrenees have many adaptations to stay warm in the winter but the best one that they have is their thick coat!
Great Pyrenees have a fluffy, white, double-layered coat. While this is one of the reasons that they shed so much, it’s also the reason they can stay warm in the winter. The top layer of their special coat is tough, protective, and insulating. The underlayer is soft, downy, and does a great job keeping heat close to your Pyr’s body. Because of this thick coat, Pyrenees are able to not only survive cold temperatures but evidently really enjoy them too!
One other interesting adaptation Great Pyrenees have is the infamous double dew claw. Most Pyr owners love their pup’s extra toes, as they should. One of the reasons this extra dew claw is so helpful is that it helps Pyrenees walk and climb over snow and ice. While there are plenty of other functions this double-dew claw serves, it certainly helps these dogs navigate a frozen terrain.
What Temperature Is Too Cold For Great Pyrenees?
Okay, so now we know what puts dogs more at risk for hypothermia and why GReat Pyrenees are less at risk than most dogs! They are extremely cold tolerant and by nature love the snow.
Any temperatures below 15°F might be too cold for your Great Pyrenees without activity or shelter. This means that if your dog is just lying outside unprotected and it’s below 15°F, you probably need to bring them inside.
Most Great Pyrenees should be totally comfortable at temperatures around 20°F.
While these numbers are useful guidelines, remember that all dogs will react to cold differently! If your Great Pyrenees is a puppy, for example, none of these rules apply. Puppies of any dog breed are small, soft and can’t hold onto heat. But, if you have a large, active adult Pyr, they might be comfortable in even lower temperatures.
As long as you monitor your pup and look out for signs that they are becoming cold, you should be okay to enjoy the Winter weather!
Can Great Pyrenees Live Outside?
Because of Great Pyrenees’ working past, many of these dogs are still kept as ranch dogs today. They guard properties and cattle just as they would have hundreds of years ago.
Technically Great Pyrenees can live outside. But, the question of whether they should or not is more debatable.
As a veterinary technician, I have seen my fair share of ranch dogs in a clinic setting. Most of them are well-cared for and loved members of the family. Occasionally we see a dog that looks worse for the wear. Leaving a dog outside year-round might end up shortening their life span.
Outdoor doggies are more susceptible to parasites and infections contracted from parasites. They tend to be ungroomed and can pick up burs or foxtails that can cause matted fur and even infected areas. In cold areas, outdoor dogs can become hypothermic overnight and suffer from long-lasting side effects of hypothermia.
Whether you choose to keep your GReat Pyrenees outside 24/7 is up to you! But, be aware that outdoor doggies actually require more attention and care than indoor doggies to make sure their quality of life is still top level!
Can Great Pyrenees Overheat?
Another thing to think about if you keep your Great Pyrenees outdoors is the possibility of heat stroke, or overheating.
While we know that Great Pyrenees can withstand the cold weather very well, the same is not true for hot weather! The same things that keep a Great Pyrenees warm in the winter are also the things that can cause them to overheat more easily.
Great Pyrenees can become uncomfortable in temperatures of 70°F and warmer. Heat stroke is serious and avoidable! While we always recommend giving your Great Pyrenees access to cool areas and water in the summer (including some water to wade in if they like it), you can read more about Great Pyrenees overheating in our article here.
How Can You Keep Your Great Pyrenees Warm?
If you’re worried about keeping your furry friend warm this winter, there are many steps you can take to avoid hypothermia! Even if your Pyr is an outdoor dog, you can make their shelter warm and cozy for them all year long!
Check and Protect Their Paws
One of the first places a dog will start to feel cold is on its paws!
Even though their paw pads are very tough and durable, these pads also touch the cold ground and if they become wet, can chill your dog quickly.
Because Great Pyrenees have fluffy paws, they can also collect chucks of ice on their fluffy parts! One way to avoid this is by trimming the fur on your Great Pyrenees’ paws (including their dew claws). This will prevent ice and snow from building up here and keep your pup a little warmer while playing outside.
It’s always a good idea to check your Great Pyrenees’ paws every day if they spend time outside. Cuts and scratches can become irritated and infected, especially in the winter.
Give Them Adequate Shelter
The best way to keep your Great Pyrenees warm in the winter is to provide them with good shelter.
For indoor dogs, this isn’t usually a problem. Your warm home will stay plenty warm enough for your Pyr to feel comfortable.
But, if you plan on leaving your Pyrenees outside in the winter, they need a real shelter. This video gives an example of an idea for an outdoor shelter for a Great Pyrenees family.
The only thing we might suggest adding to a shelter like this for the winter though would be a nice cozy bed!
Provide A Warm Cozy Bed
Even though a bed can easily get wet and dirty outside, it can make a difference in your Great Pyrenees’ comfort.
Warm, fluffy insulated beds will help trap heat overnight to keep dogs warm. Even indoor dogs love warm beds to sleep in! If you can find one that is machine washable, you should have no problem with providing a dog bed for your Pyrenees year round!
Great Pyrenees are dogs that were bred to live in extreme weather! They can handle extremely cold temperatures without shelter and can stay outside even longer with shelter. Despite this, Great Pyrenees can still become hypothermic under the wrong conditions.
Make sure that if it is a chilly day to pay extra attention to your fluffy friend. Though they may want to play outside all day in the snow, you might still need to give them a warm place to spend the night!