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Caring for Pets in Cold Weather

pretty young woman petting her dog

As colder days approach, questions about pet care always surface. We’ve gone to some of the most reliable sources to get answers!


The ASPCA warns us that cold weather and dry air can cause chapped paws and itchy, flaky skin. The chemicals used to treat roads and sidewalks can be even more hazardous. Here are their suggestions:

  1. Keep your home humidifier running. And when your pets come in from the cold, use a towel to dry them off. Pay close attention to their paws and between their toes!
  2. Don’t shave! A longer coat gives your dog more protection. If you have a long-haired animal, just trim the hair to keep ice, snow and chemicals away from the skin. And if your animal is short-haired, a coat or sweater of some kind is recommended. Look for one with a high collar and coverage from tail to belly!
  3. Bring a towel during walks. Clean off paws while walking to avoid stinging, irritated paws. And dry their feet and stomach to remove ice, salt and chemicals.
  4. Put the bath on hold. The weather is so dry, your pet needs the oils to keep the scalp from getting dry and irritated.
  5. Try booties, or petroleum jelly! Both protect the paw pads and can prevent sand, salt and chemicals from getting into the paws or between the toes.
  6. Use a pet-friendly ice melt. They are very popular now and can be found in most hardware stores.
  7. Anti-freeze is lethal. As you take care of your car, be careful to clean up any spills from your vehicle.
  8. Food and drink. Your pet is burning extra energy during the cold months, so you might try increasing the food supply a bit and make sure your pet has plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  9. Beds without drafts. Check to make sure the bed for your animal is away from drafts. A warm blanket or pillow is perfect.
  10. Don’t leave pets outdoors. If it’s too cold for you outside, than it’s too cold for your animals.


The American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMA) included a few more tips.

  1. Visit your veterinarian if it’s been a while since the last visit. Some conditions, like arthritis, are aggravated by the cold.
  2. How cold is cold? Not all pets tolerate cold in the same way. Be smart if your pet is very young or very old.
  3. Make noise when you get into your car and before you drive away. A warm vehicle can be appealing for any outside animals, so make noise – bang the hood or honk the horn – before driving away.
  4. Up-to-date tags and identification. Animals that wander off in the snow sometimes get lost because they can’t follow the scent home again. Make sure the collar and tags on your animal are current.
  5. Be careful of space heaters. Use them cautiously around pets – not only can they get burned but they can tip them over.
  6. Watch for signs of hypothermia. When your pet is outdoors, watch for shivering, slow moving animals and burrowing. These may be sign that they are getting too cold. Bring them in and if the behavior doesn’t stop, consult your veterinarian immediately.
  7. Be prepared. During severe weather, you can lose power or water. Make sure you have an emergency kit packed that will last at least 5 days. And don’t forget any medicines that your pet may need.


The Humane Society includes the same warnings as the ASPCA and AVMA, but adds a couple of comments.

  1. See a pet in the cold? Say something. If that’s the case, let the owner know you are concerned. Depending on how your advice is received, you may want to take a photo or call your local animal control agency.
  2. Horses need shelter too. You need access to a barn if it’s very cold and windy. And horses need food and water around the clock. Make sure the water isn’t frozen by using heated buckets. And giving your horses unlimited amounts of forage will help protect them from extreme cold.

It’s up to you to protect your animals during our cold and snowy days. Use common sense – if you’re cold, then more than likely, your pet is also. This is the perfect time to snuggle up with your furry friend!