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11 Pet Care Tips for Cold Weather

11 Pet Care Tips for Cold Weather
Written by Oana Schneider

At the end of a tiring day at work, nothing beats the feeling of being welcomed by the lick of a warm tongue, an enthusiastic bark, or the sweet meow of your pet dog or cat. Canine and feline pets are quite easy to care for depending on the breed. Cats are intelligent creatures while dogs are very loyal and fun to have around.

During the summer season, there are certain health problems like Lyme disease from ticks which you need to protect your pets from. There’s also the risk of appetite loss, lethargy, inflammation of the kidneys, heartworm, cardiovascular disease, dehydration, and heat stroke. Rapid response, taking preventative measures, and hygienic pet care tips for cold weather and practices are the solutions for keeping these summer diseases away.

Once the autumn season starts, it signals the entry of the coldest months of the year. Similar to summer, your pet dog or cat is also susceptible to cold weather health problems. Think of how humans are more prone to pollen allergy during spring, and the common cold during the autumn and winter seasons.

Your pets will also be exposed to colder temperatures and if their small bodies fail to adjust to the drastic change, it can lead to health problems. The good news is that there are ways for you to take good care of your pet during the winter season, which we will learn more about here.

11 Things to Remember about Winter Care for Pets

With the arrival of the autumn season comes the drop in temperatures. With winter looming, here are the top eleven things that you need to remember when caring for your pets during the colder months of the year:  

1. Keep your pets indoors during the cold season

If you have a pet cat or dog, it is best to keep them indoors during the start of the cold season. Think of how humans usually bundle up once the autumn season starts. As the temperature gets colder, your body needs that extra layer of clothes to protect your body from the cold. The same thing applies to animals, so it is best to keep them indoors.

If you have a cat, remember that they can be lost, stolen, injured or even killed once snow starts coating the ground. Being outdoors also expose animals to the risks of diseases like rabies from other dogs, cats, and wildlife. If your pet spends most of the time in the backyard, you might want to keep it indoors – especially if you live in an area where winters can be particularly harsh. 

Pet Maintenance during Cold Weather

Infographic via Veterinary Pet Insurance

2. Despite their fur, cats and dogs are not resistant to cold weather

One of the most common misconceptions that pet owners have is that animal fur serves as an automatic protection against cold weather. Although their coat does add a layer of warmth next to the skin, it cannot do the job of protecting the animal from extremely cold temperatures.

Dogs and cats are susceptible to hypothermia, frostbite, and downright freezing when exposed to cold weather unprotected. Even if you have a dog with a breed that’s known for its long hair or thick coat, you still should limit the number of minutes that it is exposed to cold weather – especially if it’s below freezing outside.

3. Colder temperatures aggravate some medical conditions

Dogs in particular are prone to heart and liver disease. Aging canines can easily have arthritis. If you have a pet with any type of health condition, it can be aggravated during the cold season which is why it pays to have a veterinary check on your pet’s health.

A once-a-year check-up should be fine but for dogs or cats with health issues, it should be more frequent.

If you have an elderly pet, it might not necessarily be a good idea to walk it in the snow. The dog could be prone to slipping, falling or freezing – and its current health condition would simply get worse.

Dogs with short legs tend to feel the cold faster because their bellies can easily touch the snow. If you have a pet with diabetes, kidney disease, hormonal imbalance, or kidney problems, it will be more difficult for them to regulate their body temperature so it is best to keep them warm indoors.

4. Puppies are more sensitive to cold than adult dogs

You might want to think twice about getting a puppy during the winter season because they are more difficult to housebreak. Another thing to remember is that puppies are more sensitive to colder temperatures than adult dogs, so they should be kept indoors at all times during the winter season.

5. Outdoor pets need to eat more during fall and winter

If you have a pet that stays outdoors most of the time, supply them with more food than usual. More food will keep their little bodies warm and their fur will be kept in tiptop shape, with proper grooming. Experts recommend that you add 10 to 15% more to a dog’s or cat’s daily diet so that its body can provide adequate warmth during the cold season.

Add some healthy fats to the regular ration of pet food, and make sure to always keep them hydrated.

6. Frosting can be a serious problem for pet during winter

During the coldest months of the year, your pet can turn into an icicle because of frosting. It’s a quite serious problem which affects the animal’s ears, the tip of the tail, and the paws. The early signs of frosting that you should watch out for is the dog or cat having firm skin that feels like wax and has blisters.

To prevent frosting from occurring in the first place, it is best to use a special coat, booties, and a head cover when taking your pet out for a walk.

7. The ground can harm the delicate paws of your pet dog or cat

Both dogs and cats have delicate paws, no matter the breed. During the cold season, you should check for signs of injury or damage.

Let’s say that you just finished a short walk. Check on the paws of your pet.

Is there a part of the skin that’s cracked, feels like wax, or is bleeding? Does it look like the dog is limping after the walk?

If this is the case, ice could have accumulated between the toes. Upon closer inspection, you would see if there is a need for you to clip the hair between each individual paw to prevent frostbite from occurring.

8. Check for cats hidden under your car tires before driving the vehicle

Cats love to hide underneath the tires of a car during winter because of the warmth that it provides. If you have a pet cat or if you know that stray cats frequently roam your neighborhood, always check if there is a feline hidden underneath one of your car tires. Shake the vehicle to distract the cat away from the tires so that you can safely drive without causing undue harm to the animal.

9. Antifreeze poisoning can easily affect your pets

When using any kind of antifreeze product for your car, remember that its remnants might lead to pet poisoning. After using an antifreeze product, clean up any spills real quick. Keep the products out of reach of your pets and little kids, if you have any.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center recommends choosing products which do not contain Ethylene Glycol – Propylene Glycol-based products is a much better option. If you must use regular antifreeze products and coolants, thoroughly clean up the spills.

10. Dogs with short fur need clothes when walking outside

When taking your pet dog for a walk outside during the winter season, make sure that it has an extra layer of clothing to keep it warm. This is really important for dogs with short hair or a thin coat. Two pairs of booties might also come in handy if you live in an area with particularly harsh winters. The calcium or sodium chloride used to melt ice is very harsh on the delicate paws of your dog, so it is best to outfit those four legs with thick booties.

11. Make sure the outdoor shelter is warm, clean and well-insulated

Finally, if you have pets which are not kept indoors during the winter season, see to it that their shelter is warm, clean and well-insulated. Make sure that the shelter serves as a solid guard against the wind. Ideally, the floor of the shelter should be above-ground to prevent the cold from seeping in.

The door should be solid enough to ward off the cold, and the bedding should be warm, dry, and cleaned regularly. Make sure that your dog or cat also has access to a water container that will not get frozen so that can stay hydrated.

A bonus tip if you are keeping your pet dog or cat inside is to pet-proof your home. Use space heaters with caution to prevent accidental skin burns and accidental fires. Just like humans, pet dogs and cats are more prone to illnesses during the colder months of the year.

By taking preventative steps and making sure that they’re in tip-top shape, they can survive even the coldest winters and get through the winter season without any incident. Use these 11 Pet Care Tips for Cold Weather to keep your four-legged friend warm and healthy!

About the author

Oana Schneider

Oana Schneider is a published author located in Chicago, Illinois, who currently works for DontPayFull.com as a communication specialist and blog editor. She writes about lifestyle, family budget, has a degree in Communications and advocates for women’s rights. Her future plans include getting a Labrador and losing a few pounds.

22 Comments

  • These are great tips. It’s so important to keep our furbabies healthy and especially warm in the severe weather. Another thing to think about is pet allergies. Many cats have allergies and sometimes Asthma, so if you hear sneezing, or notice runny noses or eyes, get a veterinarian’s opinion. Small outside animals frequently hide in engine compartments of vehicles, since that tends to be a warm place away from the wind. Banging on your hood before starting the engine can waken sleeping animals, and prevent injury, death, and a lot of grief.

  • I would never let my pets outdoors when it’s cold, because they’re not supposed to be out in that kind of weather. I know that it is much too cold for them, and as a result of that I keep them in the house instead. I know that my bills for the vets would be higher if I had them out in weather that they weren’t suited to, and as a result of this I know that it is my best interests to try and keep them safe whenever I can. This is even more important than ever during the winter months.

  • Hi Oana! Wonderful article on outside pet care. Anyone who has a dog or cat should know these things to keep their pet safe. Especially during the really cold seasons.

    • We don’t want our cute four-legged babies to suffer, right? Maybe people will reconsider leaving their pets outside and welcome them into their homes!
      I bet they could all use a good snuggle!
      Oana Schneider recently posted…13 Garden Gadgets that Will Wow Your Neighbors

  • I did know of some of these but others not so much. Growing up we had indoor pets but let the cats out and the dog out to use the bathroom. One of our cats back then did die from drinking anti freeze or some other leakage from a car in the nearby junk yard, very sad. Me and my boyfriend have a cat and we keep her indoors.

  • Nothing breaks my heart more than seeing animals outside when the temperatures are freezing or below. The tips in this article for keeping your pet warm are excellent. I have found that my older dogs paws become extremely sensitive to the cold as they age. A good indicator that your pup’s paws are cold is when they keep stopping and lifting them up when you are walking them. They make great little shoes and booties for dogs for the winter and they help to keep their paws warm, so that they can still enjoy their daily walk!

  • Thanks for reminding people of the dangers of winter for our furry friends. Especially keeping pets inside is something a lot of people in my area need to be reminded. And always check your car before driving of, I know someone who killed his own cat that way! We have an older dog and we are always careful taking in out on cold days.

  • Often people will laugh at me when I take my dog for a walk and she is wearing a sweater. however, like you mention, short haired dogs need extra warmth just as much as the rest of us. I like your suggestion to get booties as well, for those particularly wet and snowy days.

  • I think that your first tip is the most important. A lot of problems can be avoided if you just keep your pet inside during the cold season. My dog loves to come in and be with the family. Most of the other problems that come with the cold can be avoided by doing that.

  • I like your tip to limit your pet’s exposure to the cold. Like you said, even animals that are known for their thick coat shouldn’t be kept in below-freezing temperatures for too long. For the pets out there with shorter hair, sweaters may be useful to help protect them against the cold as well. Thanks for the article.

  • I agree that keeping your pet indoors is a smart thing to do, especially when it’s so cold outside. I didn’t know that the cold could aggravate medical conditions, I’ll be sure to keep a better eye on our cat during the winter now. I feel a lot better knowing these pet health tips, thank you for this help!

  • Hi Oana Schneider,

    It was worth reading your post.

    The way of your writing is excellent.

    You seem to have a good research on the topic.
    As being a responsible pet owner you have to take good care and maintenance of your pet. In cold weather there are lots of things that should be carried out in order to keep your pet Warm.

    Thanks for sharing with us,

    With regards,
    Saurav

  • Hi Schneider,
    I really appreciate that you take time and effort to write this article. It turned out to be a great one! I live in the tropical, so my dog doesn’t suffer from cold weather very much. Will you write some tips for humid weather?

    • Hi,

      Thank you for reading us. That’s a great idea. We will consider writing about this topic.

      Have a nice day!

  • Very good reminders, thanks! They are especially important for senior or paralyzed dogs. The latter are particularly prone to cold, and dogs with paralyzed limbs don’t feel the cold legs. The smaller ones can benefit from coats, but it’s always safer to keep them inside if it’s really freezing. Even if they love to play in the snow!

  • It’s the cold season here on our end. Unfortunately, for us we have 5 outdoorsy dogs. Lol. Things have been wild! Anyhow, thanks for sharing!

  • I don’t even understand people who leave their pets outside when it’s cold especially during winter! Dogs and cats are extremely sensitive to cold and I think it’ simportant that before a family adopts one they should go through basic skill training of how to care for the pet.
    These were really very inclusive tips. Well written.

  • Hi,

    Thanks for sharing this informative article.

    Everyone who has a pet then they should know these factors to keep their pet safe and healthy, I usually take extra care when we all go for the outing in winters. These all suggestions are good for all pet owners to keep their pet’s safe and healthy.

    And I will keep in mind your all suggestions about pet care.
    Keep Sharing!!!

    Warm Regards,
    Michael York

  • I have found some very useful tips here what I didn’t know before. I didn’t know that outdoor pets need to eat more on winter seasons. Thanks for the insightful article.

  • Pet owners might believe that summer poses many dangers to animals, but winter can be just as harmful, especially in northern climates! Antifreeze poisonings occur so often because people aren’t quick to clean up spills. And checking for cats under your tires or inside your hood can prevent unneeded accidents. Thanks for sharing!

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