Cold Weather Care for Your Pet

Shelter   Food & water   Arthritis   Antifreeze   Cats & cars   Exercise   Clothing   Frostbite

Winter can be challenging for our pets. Here are some important cold weather safety tips.


Ensure that your pet has appropriate shelter from wind and rain during cold weather, especially older or ill pets. If your pet must be housed outside, verify that your pet can get into and out of the shelter easily. Consider heated floor mats or non-electric bedding, or at the least, a deep bed of straw. Do not use a heat lamp or other electric heat source, as they are serious fire hazards.

Food and water

Your pet must have fresh water at all times. Check your pet's water bowl frequently to ensure that the water is not frozen, or invest in a heated pet bowl. Even if your pet is able to break through a coating of ice, there is a risk of paw injury from the sharp edges.

Pets that spend a significant amount of time outside in cold weather will require extra calories to sustain their body temperature. Consult your veterinarian about appropriate changes to your pet's diet.

Arthritis and Winter

Cold, damp weather aggravates arthritis, which is most prevalent in older and overweight pets, as well as pets that have had a bone fracture. If you notice that your pet is having trouble climbing stairs, or even experiencing difficulty getting up or lying down, schedule a visit to the veterinarian.

Antifreeze (Ethylene Glycol)

Antifreeze is both a winter and summer danger. Cats and dogs are attracted to the sweet smell and taste of antifreeze, which is highly toxic. Antifreeze can be fatal even in very small quantities - simply licking antifreeze off the garage floor is enough to harm your pet. Clean up spilled antifreeze immediately, and check your car regularly for coolant leaks. Consider using antifreeze made with propylene glycol, which is safer for pets.

Cats & Cars

Cats are attracted to the warmth of car engines, and may climb under the hood of a car to escape wind and cold. When the car engine is started the cat can be severely injured. Before you start your vehicle knock on the hood or honk your horn to ensure no animals have taken shelter out of sight. You should also check the top of your wheels, since animals may have perched there for protection.


It's important to maintain your exercise routine, even in colder weather. After walking in the snow, check your pet's paws for injuries and remove ice balls. If you walk where de-icers have been used ensure that you wash your pet's feet, as the chemicals in the de-icers may be toxic to your pet.


Many dogs, no matter the age, size or thickness of coat may require extra insulation during winter months. A properly sized coat can make a big difference in your dog's well being. Anyone who has a small dog or thin haired dog should consider whether they need extra help for long times outdoors. If in doubt, ask your vet.

Boots are also recommended to protect your dog's paws from ice, antifreeze, road salt and chemical de-icers during winter walks if you don't live in the country.

Frostbite and Hypothermia

Pets can suffer from both frostbite (in which skin tissue freezes and dies) and hypothermia (in which low body temperature can cause shock, unconsciousness, and death). Signs of frostbite include shivering, ice on the pet's body, and skin color that changes from red to white to black. Signs of hypothermia include shivering, weakness, and decreased body temperature. If you believe your pet is suffering from frostbite or hypothermia, move quickly to a warm location and contact a veterinarian immediately. Even if it appears that your pet appears to be recovering on his own, veterinary care is necessary to ensure full recovery.