Exposure to winter’s dry, cold air and chilly rain, sleet and snow can cause chapped paws and itchy, flaking skin, but these aren’t the only discomforts pets can suffer. Winter walks can become dangerous if chemicals from ice-melting agents are licked off of bare paws. To help prevent cold weather dangers from affecting your pet’s health, please heed the following advice from our experts:
Keep Pets Indoors When Possible
If it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pets. Don’t keep your pets outdoors for long periods of time during very cold weather. Short-coated dogs may need a coat or sweater during walks.
Provide Outdoor Shelter for Your Pets
If you have outdoor dogs, make sure they have a dry, draft-free doghouse that:
- Is large enough for pets to sit and lie down in, but small enough to retain their body heat.
- Has a floor that is elevated a few inches off the ground and is covered with cedar shavings or straw.
- Has an entrance that faces away from heavy winds and is covered with a flap of heavy waterproof fabric or heavy plastic.
Care for Your Pet's Feet
Salt and other chemicals used to melt ice and snow can harm your pet’s feet. Gently rub the bottom of your pet’s paws with a damp towel to remove these irritants after a walk, or buy dog boots to prevent paw irritation during winter weather. You should also look for signs that your pet’s feet are uncomfortably cold, which could include them frequently lifting up their paws, whining, or stopping.
Provide Extra Food and Water
Pets that spend time outdoors in the winter use a lot of energy to stay warm. Provide a little extra food and regularly check your pet’s water dish to ensure the water is fresh and not frozen. Use plastic food and water bowls instead of metal to prevent your pet’s tongue from freezing to them.
Use Leashes When Walking Near Water
Keep pets on a leash when walking near frozen bodies of water so they don’t run onto the ice. If a pet falls through the ice, do not go onto the ice to rescue them. If you can’t reach your pet from shore, call 9-1-1 or go for help. See more Ice Safety Tips.
Don't Lock Pets in Cars
Never leave a pet locked inside a car during extremely cold weather. Cars can act like a refrigerator, holding in cold air and putting your pet at risk.
Keep Antifreeze Out of Reach from Pets
Many types of antifreeze have a sweet taste that can attract animals. Keep antifreeze out of reach from your pets and clean up any spills right away to avoid antifreeze poisoning.
Check Your Vehicle Before Starting the Engine
Parked vehicles can attract cats and small wildlife, which may crawl under the hood seeking warmth. Bang on your vehicle’s hood to scare away animals before starting your engine.