Cold Weather Safety Tips to Keep Pets Warm and Safe

Jul 2, 2021 | Adoption Resources, All About Cats, All About Dogs, Featured

Here are some tips to keep your pets safe in cold temperatures. Northern Illinois and surrounding areas regularly experience below freezing temperatures during the winter months, be sure to keep your pets indoors as much as possible.

Make sure your pet has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from drafts. If indoors, a warm blanket or pet bed will be much appreciated by your companion! If you have an outside dog, consider bringing them inside during these cold snaps. However, if your dog HAS to stay outside, make sure they have adequate shelter and fresh unfrozen water. Your dog’s shelter needs to keep them warm, with dry bedding such a straw (do not use blankets outdoors, they will collect water and freeze) and protection from the wind. Aging, undernourished, and dogs with medical conditions should not be out in the cold even with a doghouse.

At no time should you ever leave your cat or dog in a vehicle in cold weather. The vehicle acts as a refrigerator, keeping the cold in and causing the animal to freeze.

Dog-specific Tips:

It’s important to know how much cold your pet can tolerate. Puppies, small dogs and older dogs have a lower tolerance for cold temperatures. Let them outside only to relieve themselves, or you may choose to train them to use paper pads indoors.

If your dog is built for colder weather and enjoys playing in the cold, increase the amount of food they are given, especially extra protein, to keep them and their fur healthy and in good shape.

Dogs that are let off-leash during the winter, especially during a snowstorm, have a higher chance of becoming lost. Make sure your dog is wearing ID tags and has been microchipped to increase the chances of being reunited with you if they become lost.

Towel dry your dog’s paws, legs and stomach when they come inside. Chemical agents used to melt ice can be dangerous for your dog to ingest while licking their paws. Snow and encrusted ice may also cause your dog’s paw pads to bleed. 

Never shave your dog to the skin in the winter. Dogs need their coat to provide warmth. When you give your dog a bath in the winter, be sure they are thoroughly dry before letting them outside. For dogs with shorter coats, consider getting a coat or sweater that covers their body from the base of the tail to the belly. Keep pets’ fur mat free. Mats do not allow the pet’s coat to keep the animal warm.

Cat-specific Tips:

Keep indoor cats inside. Cats can get lost in wintery weather and become injured or worse. They also have a higher risk of exposure to diseases including rabies from other animals they may encounter. If there are cats outdoors, provide them with a warm place to sleep, access to unfrozen water, and nutritious food.

Check twice before starting your car. Outdoor cats often climb under the hoods of cars to keep warm. When the motor starts, the cat may be injured or killed by the fan belt. Knock or bang loudly on the hood of your car before starting it to give cats a chance to escape. 

Antifreeze may be good for your car but it is lethal for dogs and cats. Clean up any spills thoroughly and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.

Source: ARL – Animal Rescue League of Iowa, Inc. 2018 –

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