Extreme temperatures are one of the biggest hazards when you are camping with your dog. Dogs overheat easily when it’s hot and many breeds are at risk of hypothermia if they get too cold.
In this camping guide, we discuss the best ways to keep your dog cool or warm while camping in different kinds of weather.
What You'll Learn Today
Are Dogs Affected By Heat?
Yes, dogs are highly vulnerable to excessive heat. Dogs don’t sweat through their skin; rather, they pant to keep themselves cool.
Panting is not as efficient as sweating at cooling the body, so dogs overheat faster than humans.
High levels of humidity coupled with high temperatures increase the risk of overheating.
You can tell your dog is getting too hot if they pant heavier than usual, have trouble breathing, have a rapid heartbeat, or show reduced coordination. If you measure a body temperature above 104 degrees, that’s a clear sign of overheating.
If not resolved, overheating in dogs can lead to heatstroke, which can cause seizures, unconsciousness and death.
Some dogs are more vulnerable to overheating than others. Puppies, senior dogs, overweight and sick dogs have a harder time regulating their body temperature.
Dogs with a thick coat and short-faced (brachycephalic) dogs are also at a higher risk of overheating.
How Hot Is Too Hot To Take Your Dog Camping?
How much ambient temperature your dog can tolerate depends on its breed, health condition, and age.
Generally, most dogs will be fine in temperatures up to 75 degrees. You can still go camping with a healthy dog if it’s hotter than that, but you’ll need to help them stay cool.
However, if you expect the temperature to get into the 90s, it’s probably best to leave the dog at home. It’s going to be miserable even for yourself.
Something else to consider is the terrain. If you plan to hike on paved trails, they can be too hot for your dog’s paws. The same is true for sandy terrain.
How To Keep A Dog Cool When Camping
Here are some tips on how to keep your dog cool when camping in hot weather.
- Never leave your dog even for a minute in a car or RV. It can get hot quickly, putting your dog’s life at risk. The same is true for a tent, even one with vents. It can get too hot inside.
- Make sure your dog has access to shade. In addition to setting up camp close to a shady spot, we recommend packing a tarp that can provide shade for you and your dog.
- Carry lots of drinking water and keep the dog well hydrated. You can also make some dog popsicles and put them in the cooler along with ice. They are great for cooling the dog down.
- If you are hiking, take it easy and take lots of rest in shady spots. Too much activity increases the risk of overheating. If it’s too hot, it’s safe to ditch the hike altogether and stay at the campsite. If you have to hike, plan to do so early in the morning or in the evening when it’s cooler.
- Pack products and gear for keeping dogs cool. Examples include a cooling gel pad, cooling vest, and a portable fan (handy for keeping the tent cool).
- If your dog seems to be getting too hot, wrap them in a damp towel. This will absorb heat from their body. If you are near a stream or lake, a swim in the water is even better.
- During warm nights, keep the bedding to a minimum. Usually, a dog bed or sleeping pad is enough. It’s also important to keep the tent cool by opening vents and turning on a fan.
- If you plan to walk on pavement or sand, pack dog booties. They’ll protect your dog’s paws from the heat. Look for mesh booties that are cool and breathable.
Are Dogs Affected By The Cold?
While dogs have fur to keep them warm, they are not impervious to extremely low temperatures. A majority of breeds can comfortably tolerate temperatures as low as 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit.
But if they are exposed to temperatures below 40 for a prolonged period, they can get sick and in extreme cases, die.
There are a few breeds like huskies and Alaskan malamutes that can tolerate much lower temperatures. But even cold-tolerant dogs can be affected by the cold if they have an existing health condition, are old or don’t have a healthy coat.
So no matter what dog breed you have, avoid exposing it to cold temperatures for a prolonged period.
Here are some of the risks of prolonged cold exposure to dogs.
- Sluggishness and reduced activity as blood is diverted to core organs.
- When temperatures fall below 32 degrees, it increases the risk of frostbite as more blood is diverted away from external body parts like paws and ears.
- Worsening of health conditions like arthritis and injuries.
- If it gets really cold, your dog will struggle to maintain the right body temperature. This can lead to hypothermia, a deadly condition.
Keep in mind that puppies, senior dogs and short haired dog breeds are at a higher risk of these conditions. Be extra-cautious if your dog falls into one of these groups.
Here’s a video that explains what to do if your dog gets hypothermia.
When Is It Too Cold To Bring Your Dog Camping?
Different dogs have varying tolerance for cold. So you have to learn how cold is too cold for your specific dog.
Start with the dog’s breed. What are the minimum temperatures dogs of that breed find comfortable. Then consider your dog’s health and age.
If they have a health condition like diabetes, arthritis, or heart disease, their minimum tolerable temperature is probably higher.
Generally, most dogs will be okay if the forecasted temperature is above 40 degrees. Most dogs will also tolerate temperatures between 25-40 degrees, but you may need to pack some warm gear like booties and a dog coat.
Below 20 degrees, it’s best to camp with a cold-tolerant dog that has thick fur. And even then, you’ll still need to pack warm gear for the dog.
If you have a pup, a senior dog, or a sick dog, we’d recommend not camping in temperatures less than 32-40 degrees depending on how vulnerable your dog is.
How To Keep A Dog Warm While Camping
It’s important that you figure out how you are going to keep your dog warm before you go camping. That gives you time to buy and pack any warm gear you need.
We recommend packing for colder weather than you expect. If the forecasted minimum temperature is 35 degrees, be ready to deal with sub 30 degree weather.
Here are the best tips for keeping your dog warm while camping.
- If you expect mildly cold weather (30-40), booties are enough for many dogs. This prevents heat loss via their paw pads, one of the main parts of the body through which they lose heat.
- If you have a short haired dog, pack a coat or jacket even if the cold is mild. They don’t conserve heat as well as thicker haired breeds. A dog coat is also important if you are going camping with a pup or an aging dog.
- Park a warm dog jacket, coat or hoodie (plus booties) if you expect very cold weather (under 20 degrees) regardless of your dog breed.
- Sleep with your dog in the tent or vehicle if you are car camping. A tent rated for the weather will keep your pet perfectly warm through the night.
- Don’t let your dog sleep on the ground or tarp. They’ll lose a lot of heat quickly. Instead carry a dog bed or pad that insulates them from the cold ground.
- If it’ll be very cold or your dog needs extra help staying warm, pack a dog blanket as well to cover them. We recommend a wool blanket.
- There are also sleeping bags for dogs. Alternatively, you can share your sleeping bag with the dog. This works best for pups and small dog breeds.
- If it gets unexpectedly cold when camping and have no warm gear like a coat or sleeping bag for your dog, try snuggling with the dog to keep them warm. Another tip is to put a bottle of warm water close to them.
- Keep the dog well fed. Food will help maintain core body temperature.
Tip: If your dog has never put on any clothing, don’t wait until the camping trip to put a dog coat or booties on them. Ease them into it weeks before you go camping, using treats to help them get used to the feeling of a coat or jacket on them.