Preparing Your Pets for Winter Weather

Pets that spend some or all their time outdoors need your help in colder weather. Check out these tips to keep your pets happy and healthy.


The onset of colder weather means putting on your snow tires, getting your furnace serviced and putting together your winter emergency kit. It means buying rock salt, making sure the snowblower is in good working order and putting a winter breakdown kit in your car. It can even mean planning winter holidays, whether that’s a ski trip or an island getaway from the snow and ice.

But it’s not just the human members of your household who need to be ready for winter weather. Your pets need to be ready, too. These winter pet safety tips can make sure your pets adjust to colder weather as smoothly as possible.

Visit Your Vet

It’s not a bad idea to schedule your pet’s yearly checkup with the vet right before cold weather hits, especially if they have chronic health issues. Diabetes, heart disease and arthritis are all examples of health conditions that can make the winter weather harder on your pet. Diabetes and heart disease can make it difficult for your pet to self-regulate their temperature. Cold weather can make arthritis more painful and joints stiffer, causing your dog to have more trouble moving in the snow and ice. 

Bring Your Pets Inside

When should you bring your dog inside? With the exception of cold-weather breeds like the husky or samoyed, most dogs don’t like the cold. If you think it’s cold outside, it’s too cold for your dog to be outside. Cats will also be better off inside, especially ones with health conditions like those discussed above.

Of course, if you have a cold-weather breed, it might love being out in the snow and you might struggle to get it to come inside. If you’re concerned about how much time your dog is spending outside, talk to your vet about cold weather tips for your pets based on breed.

Take Shorter Walks with Your Dog

Dogs can slip and fall on the ice, and the longer you’re out with your animal, the more likely you are to slip and hurt yourself, perhaps seriously. Cut walks short. Animals can also get frostbite, especially if they’re walking barefoot in the snow, and hypothermia. Watch for the signs of hypothermia in your pet, including increased whining, anxiety, shivering, and weakness, and monitor its paws for signs of frostbite. These include discoloration of the skin (often bluish, gray, or pale); pain, swelling, and blisters or ulcers in the affected area; and brittleness and coldness of the area to the touch.

Bundle Up Your Pup

You wouldn’t dream of going out for a walk in the snow without your boots, parka, scarf, ear muffs and gloves. Your pet needs to be bundled up, too, especially if he’s a short-haired breed susceptible to the cold. Buy your dog a winter jacket and consider a snood to protect his ears on especially cold days.

You should also buy booties for your dog to wear during winter walks. The salt and chemicals used to keep roads and walkways free of ice can burn your pet’s paws. Booties will protect his feet, but you should wipe down and dry his paws as soon as you get home from a walk.

Make Sure Your Pet Has a Chip and Tags

A pet that gets out in the snow can quickly become disoriented and lost. Protect your pet with a microchip and tags. Remember to keep the data associated with your pet’s chip up to date.

Be Mindful of Seasonal Dangers Around the House

Winter dangers for pets aren’t all outdoors. Keep winter-related supplies, accessories and decorations out of reach of pets. Put your antifreeze away after winterizing your car. Keep chocolate, tinsel, yeasty dough, holiday string lights and other hazards out of your pet’s reach.

Include Pet Supplies in Your Emergency Kit

Your winter emergency survival kit should include supplies for your pet. He or she needs a week’s worth of water, plus dry and wet food, a traveling carrier, an extra harness and collar, and at least seven days’ worth of medications. Include a pet first aid kit, copies of your pet’s vaccination and medical records in a waterproof bag, disposable litter trays and litter for cats, feeding dishes, garbage bags, disinfectant cleaner and paper towels, blankets, toys, recent photos of the pet, and treats. 

Keep Giving Flea Meds

Flea meds are expensive, and it’s tempting to discontinue them during the cold winter months when fleas lie dormant. But that can leave your pet vulnerable to fleas and the parasites they carry when the weather warms back up again. Plus, if you don’t restart meds soon enough, you could quickly find your house overrun with fleas and have to bomb. It’s easier and safer, all around, to keep treating your pets for fleas through the winter, so they stay protected. 

Preparing your pets for the winter months ensures that they’ll be protected from frostbite, rock salt burns, hypothermia, and winter weather emergencies. Get ready now to keep them happy and healthy all season long.

AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

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