Cold Weather Safety Tips

Winter is quickly approaching along with freezing temperatures in many parts of the country. Now is the time to protect your pets from the elements and colder weather.

Don’t leave pets outside when the temperature drops below freezing

  • Pets are safer indoors in freezing weather.
  • Dogs need outside exercise but only for limited periods.
  • Limit time outdoors, especially to prevent frostbite on ear tips, paws and the end of the tail. If you suspect frostbite, seek veterinary attention.
  • If your pet lives outside, make sure there is some sort of shelter or lifted surface—preferably with a bed, warm blanket or pillow, or lined with straw as insulation—and off the cold ground.
  • Never leave your pet alone in a car during cold weather. In the winter, a car is just like a refrigerator, trapping the cold air, which can cause your pet to freeze to death.


De-icing chemicals may be hazardous

The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice may irritate the pads of your pet’s feet. Wipe the feet with a damp towel every time when coming in from outdoors—even if you don’t see salt on the walkways.

Antifreeze is a deadly poison

Antifreeze has a sweet taste and can be fatal if swallowed. Even antifreeze formulated with propylene glycol can be dangerous to pets. If you see your pet ingesting antifreeze or suspect that there may have been access, seek veterinary attention immediately.

Provide plenty of food and water

It takes more energy and calories in the winter to regulate your pet’s temperature—especially if your pet spends significant time outside. Discuss your pet’s nutritional requirements with your veterinarian.

Indoor pets may need extra monitoring as well

Some pets, such as reptiles or tropical fish, may be temperature-sensitive to cold air. Pay attention to room temperatures to ensure that these pets don’t get chilled.

Roaming cats and cars

Cats may climb onto vehicle engines seeking warmth during cold weather. Severe, sometimes fatal injury can result from being struck by a moving fan belt.

  • Be sure to knock on or check under the hood before starting your vehicle.
  • Honk the horn to startle any pets that may have sought shelter underneath your vehicle.


Icy conditions

Cold temperatures can freeze drinking water left outdoors. Your pet can also damage its paws trying to break through icy surfaces. In freezing temperatures, check the water frequently or purchase a heater for the water bowl.

Pet escapes

Pet escapes seem to rise during the winter months when pets may become frightened by changes in routine and activity, and overwhelmed by friends and family stopping by to visit.

  • Have a special quiet place in the house where your pets can retreat to when things get too hectic.
  • Keep an eye on your pets when the door is open in order to keep them from escaping.
  • Make sure your pets have a properly fitting collar with current ID tags. Microchips are an ideal way of helping shelters and veterinarians identify your pets and get them back home if they run away.


General tips

  • Have enough pet food, fresh water, warm bedding and any medications your pet takes on a regular basis on-hand, to last a few days in case roads are closed or the veterinarian’s office is closed.
  • Keep your pet on a leash at all times in snowy or icy conditions, as dogs in particular can lose their scent during a snowstorm and become lost.
  • Dogs lose most of their body heat from their paw pads, ears and through respiration. If your dog is comfortable in clothing, a sweater or coat with a high collar or a turtleneck that covers your dog from the tail to tummy are ideal. Booties can help protect against paw pads from bleeding because of a coating of snow or ice.
  • Signs that your pet might be uncomfortable and ready to come inside include whining, shivering, anxiety and lethargy.
  • Even healthy older pets can be less able to tolerate cold temperatures. In general, young, old, ill or pregnant pets are less able to tolerate temperature extremes.