Do Shih Tzu Get Cold in Winter? How To Keep Your Shih Tzu Cozy and Warm

BY MOLLY | EVERYTHINGSHIHTZU.COM | Updated September 20, 2023
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Rufus and Max (Shih Tzu) in the cold winter snowTaking a walk in the snow

You might think since your Shih Tzu comes complete with a long, silky coat; they are well protected against the cold weather that winter brings.

After all, they carry their own fur coat around with them twenty-four-seven!

However, while many dogs can withstand cold weather reasonably well, the Shih Tzu isn't one of these breeds.

A Shih Tzu doesn't care too much for cold weather, and they can definitely feel the chill of winter. This is mainly because Shih Tzu are a brachycephalic breed, which means they have short noses and flat faces that make them more susceptible to respiratory issues.

Some of these issues can be exacerbated by extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold.

While respiratory issues are a reason to keep your Shih Tzu protected from the cold, there are other reasons to protect your dog from chilly winter temperatures.

Shih Tzu and Tolerance to Cold Weather

Shih Tzus, known for their lively personalities and adorable lion-like appearance, boast a rich history that hails back to the palaces of ancient Tibet.

These pampered pets were bred to be royal companions, spending their days in the warm, lavish surroundings of the palaces, rather than the harsh outdoors.

It's no wonder, then, that their tolerance to cold weather is rather limited.

Due to their sensitivity to the cold, the Shih Tzu is prone to many problems when they have to endure cold weather.

These little lion dogs might be distinguished by their cute, short snouts, but it is precisely this feature that increases their fragility in cold weather.

Many dogs, like Siberian Huskies and Saint Bernards, for example, can endure very cold temperatures; it's inherent in their breed.

However, when it comes to the small, affectionate Shih Tzu, these pups would rather be inside, snuggled up on your lap.

Plus, like many small dogs, Shih Tzu can't hold onto their body heat very well, and their long flowing coats are very deceptive.

While beautiful, a Shih Tzu's coat is more like human hair than fur, and it isn't very thick, despite having an undercoat. Because of this, the Shih Tzu's coat actually offers little protection from the cold.

So, keeping your pup indoors during winter is best, but if you do plan to bring them outside, make sure you follow certain steps to help protect them from the elements.

What Temperature is Too Cold for a Shih Tzu?

Although the Shih Tzu doesn't like cold weather, that doesn't mean they can never go outside in winter.

In temperatures around 45 degrees Fahrenheit, especially when it's dry and the sun is out, your pup can likely handle a few minutes of outdoor time.

For example, a quick walk around the block or a few minutes of playtime in the back yard wouldn't be a big deal.

However, when the temperature starts to drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, or if it's cold and rainy, then you're better off staying inside.

It's important to keep a close eye on your Shih Tzu whenever you're out in cold weather.

If you start to notice signs that your furry friend is too cold, get her somewhere warm immediately.

In some cases, if you let her get too cold or wait too long to react, you might end up making a trip to the vet for hypothermia.

Shih Tzu outside in the snow

How Long Can Shih Tzu Stay Outside in Cold Weather?

Shih Tzu were not meant to live outside, in fact they are bred to be an indoor pet.

However, this does not mean they can't go outdoors to play in the snow, or go for walks.  It just means you have to watch for indications they are cold.

When the temperature drops, here are a few signs to watch for that can signal your Shih Tzu is getting too cold:

  • Your Shih Tzu won't go outside
  • Your Shih Tzu tries to burrow into her bed or under blankets
  • Your Shih Tzu is shivering
  • Your Shih Tzu keeps lifting her paws off of the ground when she is outside
  • Your Shih Tzu is barking or whining
  • Your Shih Tzu has low energy or seems out of it

If your pup is showing any of the above signs, simply keep them indoors or get them somewhere warm.

However, should your dog show any of the following signs, it could be hypothermia, and they may need immediate attention from a vet:

  • Your Shih Tzu starts to slow down and not move
  • Your Shih Tzu is trembling
  • Your Shih Tzu's coat and skin feels very cold
  • Your Shih Tzu has a slow heart rate
  • Your Shih Tzu has dilated pupils
  • Your Shih Tzu has pale or blue gums
  • Your Shih Tzu has trouble breathing

Hypothermia can lead to stiff muscles, kidney failure, and death.

But, as long as you take the proper precautions when the temperatures drop, you and your pup can have a safe, warm, and toasty winter.

Factors Influencing Shih Tzu's Sensitivity to Cold

There are multiple factors that can heighten a Shih Tzu's sensitivity to cold.

  • Coat Length and Thickness

Firstly, the coat length and thickness play a significant role in how a Shih Tzu responds to cold temperatures.

Shih Tzus with longer, thicker hair can better retain body heat compared to those with short or thin hair.

Keeping this in mind, regular grooming can help maintain your Shih Tzu's coat in a way that optimizes warmth during winter months.

  • Age and Health Conditions

Secondly, age and underlying health conditions are important factors.

Young puppies and older dogs are particularly susceptible to the cold. Likewise, dogs with certain health conditions, such as arthritis, can find the cold weather painful or uncomfortable.

Always consult with your vet to understand how your Shih Tzu's age or health conditions might affect their cold tolerance.

  • Individual Variations in Cold Tolerance

Thirdly, remember that there are individual variations in cold tolerance.

Some Shih Tzus might simply be more resilient to the cold than others. Monitor your dog's behavior in cold weather to understand their unique comfort level.

  • Acclimatization to Cold Weather

Lastly, acclimatization to cold weather over time can influence a Shih Tzu's sensitivity to cold.

A Shih Tzu that has been exposed to milder temperatures or indoor living may experience more discomfort in cold weather compared to one that has been gradually acclimatized to cooler conditions.

Despite this, remember that Shih Tzu are not inherently winter-hardy and should never be left outside in the cold for extended periods.

Understanding these factors will help tailor your approach to keeping your Shih Tzu cozy and comfortable during winter, ensuring they remain happy and healthy.

Tips on How to Keep Your Shih Tzu Warm in Winter

While most Shih Tzu dogs don't really care to be out in the cold temperatures for any length of time, older dogs are especially more sensitive to the cold.

With this in mind, here are some ways you can keep your Shih Tzu safe when it's cold outdoors.

  • Keep Your Shih Tzu Indoors

This is absolutely a must for a Shih Tzu, no matter what the temperature is outdoors. A Shih Tzu is not meant to be an outside dog.

However, even though your pup is inside your warm home, also make sure her bed is in a warm spot. In other words, don't place their bed near a drafty door or window, and let them have an extra blanket to use.

It can also help if you elevate your pup's bed off of the cold floor, or if you're willing, let them sleep with you in your bed (they'll love that)!

  • Limit Outdoor Walks and Activity

Be aware of how long your walks are and adjust your walk times to warmer times of the day. And, since you'll be taking less walks, you might want to try potty pads inside for your pup (just in case).

Also, take into consideration of how much you feed your Shih Tzu during the winter as they won't be exercising as much as usual and could become overweight.

  • Dress for the Weather and Stay Dry

It's very unlikely that your Shih Tzu will never go outside during winter.

One of the most effective ways to keep your Shih Tzu warm during winter months is by investing in appropriate doggy attire, such as:

  • sweaters, 
  • winter coats,
  • booties.

These items provide an extra layer of insulation, protecting your furry friend from the cold.

Dog booties help protect your dog's paws and pads from the cold ground especially if there's snow or ice. Booties also keep your dog's feet safe from various chemicals used during the winter, like de-icers.

You can also put a special paw wax on your pup's pads to help keep them protected from cracking and becoming chapped.

A winter coat helps your pup keep body heat in instead of letting it escape.

Also, don't let your dog get wet. If they do get wet, ensure you dry them off completely as soon as possible.

And always make sure the clothing fits comfortably and doesn't restrict movement.

  • Serve Your Pup Room Temp Water

Ensure the water you give your pup isn't overly cold. Especially if it's very cold outside, cold pipes can cause water to come out of the tap at an icy temperature.

Likewise, don't let your Shih Tzu eat ice or snow. Not only does this increase the chances of driving down their body temperature, but the snow and ice can contain dangerous chemicals like antifreeze or de-icers that can be very dangerous for your dog.

  • Don't Leave Your Dog In the Car

For many, it's a no-brainer to not leave your dog in a hot car. However, many people don't think the same way when it comes to cold weather.

The temperature inside a cold car can get well below the outdoor temperatures very quickly, creating an extremely dangerous environment for your canine companion.

Basically, your Shih Tzu can enjoy winter, but it's important to keep them protected from the cold.

Always make sure to protect your pet from the extreme temperatures when they are outside, and make sure they have a warm place to sleep indoors too.

These tips are a great way to keep your pup safe and warm this winter. Plus, they're sure to look super cute in their doggy coat.

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