How to Care for Pets In Cold Weather


Winter can be a difficult time, for humans and animals alike. There are a few hazards that you need to be aware of and guard against to keep your pet safe in the harsher months.

How to Care for Pets in Cold Weather – Safety Tips

The most important thing is to set the proper limits, no matter if your pet is a dog or a cat. Here are the most important points to look at.

  • Collar and chip. Do not let your pet outside without those.
  • Talk to a vet. Discuss with your local vet whether your pet is well enough to spend the winter outside. If there are risks to arthritis or other cold-related problems, you better not let your pet outside.
  • Provide food, water and shelter. Don’t let your dog or cat stay outside without a pet house with a roof, and an always full bowl of food and water.
  • Check temperature. Cats and dogs can survive in temperatures below zero, but since they’re your pets, you shouldn’t push them on the brink of survival. Once temperatures fall below zero, better take them back in.
  • Check the paws. Check your pet’s paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding.

The Problem with Hypothermia

Just like humans, animals are susceptible to the effects of cold. Dogs may have their own fur coats but with the possible exception of cold climate breeds such as huskies, most domestic dogs won’t cope with extreme cold without your help.

If possible keep your pets indoors, if they do live outside they need adequate and well-insulated shelter.

Don’t be tempted to use a heat lamp, you dog might burn itself, lots of straw will act as good insulation, or you can buy high insulation bedding from any good pet store. Small, short-haired breeds kept indoors will benefit from a coat when going out for walks.

Lack of Water

Any outdoor animal needs a supply of fresh unfrozen drinking water. They can’t get enough fluid from eating snow or breaking up ice. You can buy heated water bowls for outdoor use which will keep water unfrozen if your pet doesn’t have access to indoor water.

Paw Damage

If you’ve taken your dog for a walk in the snow check for snow build up or ice in their paws afterwards. If your dog has long hair between the paws, clipping will reduce ice build up.

If you can’t do this yourself ask your Balham Doggy Centre sitter to suggest someone who can do it for you. Walks on salt treated pavements can cause chapping or soreness and if your dog or cat licks their sore feet they could ingest the salt and develop stomach problems.

If in doubt wash feet and dry them after a walk.

Chemical Dangers

Antifreeze has a sweet smell and taste which many dogs and cats seem to like. It’s highly toxic and antifreeze poisoning is often fatal. Make sure that all chemicals in your home are keep away from pets as carefully as you make sure they’re kept away from children.

If your dog or cat shows symptoms that make you think of intoxication take it to the vet without delay. Don’t be deceived by signs of apparent improvement, your pet can ‘recover’ from initial symptoms but their kidneys will be suffering in the meantime.


Dogs and cats can develop this condition as humans can. Like humans, they will suffer more in cold or damp weather.

A heated mat in your pet’s bed will bring comfort and symptom relief. Don’t give animals human painkillers. Ask your vet for a proper diagnosis and medications that have been developed specifically for animal use.