Pet Winter Safety: 9 Ways To Keep Dogs & Cats Safe In Cold Weather

Winter isn’t an easy season for animals, especially those who lack a forever home. But this winter has been even more challenging than most – particularly in Texas, where millions of people and animals were stranded without power or heat in the freezing cold. Now the lights are back on, but many Americans are still struggling to process our coldest winter in decades. Here are 9 simple ways to keep your pets healthy and safe until warmer weather arrives.

1. How Cold Is Too Cold For Dogs?

Our pet may have fur coats, but that doesn’t mean dogs and cats don’t get cold. When temperatures falls to around 35°F, it’s time to consider bringing your pets indoors. Seniors pets, puppies, dogs with thin fur, and small dog breeds are also more sensitive to falling temperatures. Here’s a handy chart to help you decide if it’s too cold for your pets to be outside.

2. Bundle Up

Photo: Unsplash

Would you go outside without a coat or boots in the middle of winter? Good. Now don’t make your dog do it, either. Not only willwinter coats and boots help keep pups warm, boots protect sensitive paws from the chemical de-icing agents that are often used during storms. These chemical agents keep ice off city sidewalks and streets, but they also irritate your pup’s sensitive paws. Be warned that some dogs need convincing to wear boots for the first time. Read this story if you need help training your dog to wear winter boots.

3. Take Care In The Car

Photo: Shutterstock

Most people know leaving dogs alone in hot cars can be deadly, but your vehicle poses just as much risk in winter months. During cold weather, your car is a “refrigerator on wheels,” leaving your dog at risk of hypothermia, suffocation, or even freezing to death. It’s wise to limit your driving time in cold weather or — even better — just leave your four-legged passengers at home.

4. Check the Hood

Photo: YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT / 日産自動車株式会社

Cars also present winter hazards for cats, because these curious creatures often cuddle under car hoods or on top of a car tire to stay warm. Make sure to check under the hood for napping cats before you start the engine.

5. Be Careful With Anti-Freeze

It’s also important to keep cars and garages free of any hazardous wintertime chemicals, like anti-freeze, which is deadly for both cats and dogs. According to the ASPCA, pet owners should immediately clean up any spills of dangerous chemicals that occur inside their car or garage. Consider buying car products containing the less toxic propylene glycol.

6. Leashes On

Photo: Unsplash

It’s tempting to let your pets run free in the snow, but you should always keep your dog on a leash during winter walks and play. This is because our pets run higher risks of getting lost in winter white-out conditions, when snowfall obscures the scented trails they usually follow back home. “Prevent your pets from becoming lost by keeping dogs leashed on walks and, just in case you are separated from your pets, make sure their collars have up-to-date contact information and they are microchipped,” the Great Plains SPCA explains. Reflective collars and winter coats, in addition to keeping dogs warm, also makes lost pets easier to find in the snow.

7. Towel Off

It’s important to dress your pets for cold weather, but it’s just as essential to dry them off once they’re back safely inside. Use a towel or hair dryer to thoroughly dry fur and paws, taking special care to remove any ice balls that may have formed in your dog’s fur. The Animal Rescue Site Store offers a selection of drying towels and heating pads to help keep your dog warm and dry.

8.Chow Down

Dogs and cats should be regularly watered and fed in winter months, because we all need extra calories to help us generate energy and body heat. We’re pretty sure your dog won’t say ‘no’ to extra helpings! In addition to regular meals, make sure your dogs and cats are drinking lots of water, which will keep their skin healthy and hydrated despite the dry winter air.

9. Share The Love

It’s important to care for your pets in cold weather, but there are plenty of homeless animals that could use your help, too. Consider helping the community cats in your neighborhood stay well-fed and warm by building an outdoor shelter or a food/water station. Check out our 7 Simple Steps To Save Stray Animals’ Lives This Winter for more life-saving ideas.

Additional Resources:

  • How Cold Is Too Cold For Dogs?
  • Pro Tips For Training Your Dog To Wear Winter Boots.
  • 6 Ways To Keep Dogs & Cats Safe In Sub-Zero Conditions
  • Remember To Knock On The Hood Of Your Car During The Winter To Check For Sleeping Cats
  • Protect Your Pets With These Winter Safety Tips
  • 7 Simple Steps That Will Help You Save Stray Animals’ Lives This Winter
  • Help Strays Survive Winter With This Easy DIY Cat Shelter
  • Winter Games to Play with Your Dog to Beat the Seasonal Blues
  • Winter is Coyote Mating Season – How to Protect Your Pets
  • Dog Years Aren't As Simple As They Seem — Scientists Say Your Pup May Be Older Than You Think: Click “Next” below!

    J. Swanson is a writer, traveler, and animal-enthusiast based in Seattle, an appropriately pet-crazed city where dog or cat ownership even outweighs the number of kids. When the weather permits, she likes to get outside and explore the rest of the Pacific Northwest, always with a coffee in hand.
    Whizzco for FAP