This vet tried to spend the night in a freezing doghouse to show how cold it is for outdoor pets in the winter

As extreme winter weather continues to bring snow, ice and below average temperatures across the country, many people are wondering what to do about their pets.

For those pet owners with animals that spend partial time outdoors, these weather conditions can be a cause for concern. When is it too cold for a dog to be outside in its doghouse? Many people reason that dogs have fur coats and that many animals spend their entire lives outdoors, so it must be OK for a pup to be outside in the winter. They may throw an extra blanket in the doghouse or even a heating lamp, but with those bases covered, the dog should be fine … right?

dog in snow photo
Getty Images | Bruce Bennett

Not really. In fact, one veterinarian, Dr. Ernie Ward, was so committed to making dog owners realize that it is not okay to leave your pup outside in freezing temps that he went to extreme measures: He decided to get into a doghouse and stay in there as long as he could stand the frigid temperatures.


Ward bundled up in a thick winter coat, hat, gloves and other cold-weather gear, and then he crawled into a doghouse to endure the long, cold night. However, he ended up only lasting four hours, as he eventually could no longer take the brutal cold.

As he discovered, it took less than 30 minutes for the temperature in the doghouse to dip to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and even with all the extra layers he had on, Ward’s extremities started to feel numb. At the end of four hours, the temperature inside the doghouse was 15 degrees Fahrenheit, and Ward was uncontrollably shivering.

Take a look at the eye-opening video below:

You might be thinking that this because humans are not equipped to handle cold the way dogs do. However, Ward says that is simply not the case.

“No dog is biologically adapted to handle this,” he said.

The American Veterinary Medical Association says, “Longer-haired and thick-coated dog breeds, such as huskies and other dogs bred for colder climates, are more tolerant of cold weather; but no pet should be left outside for long periods of time in below-freezing weather.”

In fact, just like human beings, dogs (and cats) can develop hypothermia and frostbite. And if dogs have existing conditions like arthritis, the cold weather can make their pain worse.

To put it simply, if it is too cold for YOU to spend the night outside, it is too cold for your pets. This handy chart from Petplan will help you understand how long your dog should be outside in extreme temperatures. But, ultimately, we need to remember that dogs do not have superhuman abilities to withstand the cold. They need protection from the elements, just as we do.

As for Ward, he has this strict warning for pet-owners: “If you think that you put your dog out in a doghouse with plenty of blankets, that they’re somehow magically gonna warm up and be nice and toasty, you are fooling yourself.”

dog in dog house photo
Getty Images | Matt Cardy

Of course, keeping them warm isn’t the only thing you need to do to keep your pets safe and healthy. Dogs can’t be left alone (even inside) for hours on end. Adult dogs can stay home alone for six to eight hours, while puppies and senior dogs need more frequent potty breaks and attention.

Also be aware that about 40 percent of dogs have an aversion to loud noises, such as fireworks and thunderstorms. Dogs that become anxious on the Fourth of July or during storms may stay calm if you cover them with a weighted blanket or put them in a safe space, such as a crate where they feel comfortable.

dog sleeping crate photo
Flickr | jinxmcc

If you like sharing table scraps with your pup, you need to know which foods are safe for dogs and which may be dangerous. Unseasoned meat, peanut butter and apples are all safe treats for dogs. But avocados and cherries can both make dogs sick, and grapes and raisins can even cause kidney failure in canines.

Finally, in the event of an emergency such as choking, it’s important for pet owners to know how to perform CPR on their dogs.

[h/t: The Dodo]

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About the Author
Bridget Sharkey
Bridget Sharkey is a freelance writer covering pop culture, beauty, food, health and nature. Visit Scripps News to see more of Bridget's work.

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