Keeping pets warm in winter is an essential part of pet safety and responsible pet ownership

Many people are aware of how dangerous overheating in pets can be, but what about the cold? In fact, pets can be at risk for medical problems in cold weather, and are just as likely to get hypothermia (low body temperature) or frostbite as their owners.

It’s a common misconception that a pet’s fur protects them from the cold. In reality, fur is not adequate protection from the elements, especially in extreme weather or if your pet is not acclimated to colder temperatures.

Like humans, pets will tolerate cold to different degrees, depending on their age, breed, coat density, nutritional stores, overall general health, and physical conditioning.  Northern breeds of dog can tolerate cold weather better than a short haired chihuahua, for example. But keep in mind that all dogs (and cats!) need shelter from winter wind, cold, and wet.

Keeping Pets Warm in Winter

Here are some practical ways for keeping pets warm when the mercury drops.

Keep them in – the most effective way to keep animals warm is to keep them indoors. If you have wood or tile floors, a warm bed is also a creature comfort they’ll appreciate. You may need to limit walks and time outdoors as well if the weather is extreme. A basic rule is that if it’s too cold for you outside, it’s too cold for your pets.

An extra coat – pets may benefit from a warm sweater or a dog coat when heading outside in cold weather. It’s especially important to keep older pets, sick pets, and very young puppies and kittens warm, and an extra layer is the ticket. Some owners also opt for dog boots to protect sensitive paws from ice, snow, and toxic deicing chemicals.

Extra food – for keeping pets warm, extra nutrition may be in order. Keeping warm depletes energy. Talk to The Pet Experts at Springbrook Animal Care Center to learn if this may be appropriate for your pet. Of course, pets always need plenty of fresh water to keep well hydrated, even in winter.

Gimme shelter – if your dog is outdoors for any length of time, he must have access to a warm, dry shelter. This draft-free shelter must be large enough for your dog to turn around in, but small enough to keep in body heat. The floor should be raised up off the cold ground, and there should be some sort of insulation such as cedar shavings or straw. The doorway should be covered by heavy plastic or waterproof canvas. Outdoor cats should not be left outdoors in winter, even if they are allowed to roam other seasons of the year. Many outdoor cats will be happy sheltering in a barn, shed, or garage. Again, provide a warm bed for them.

Speak out – if you encounter a pet left out in the cold, gently let the owner know you’re concerned. Many people simply don’t know the risks cold weather poses to their pets and will be quick to correct any problems. If not, contact the Humane Society of the United States for guidance.

Keeping Community Cats Warm

Many neighborhoods have a community cat and/or feral population. These cats also shelter wherever they can – in addition to the above mentioned spots, many a cat has taken shelter next to a warm car engine. Make sure you honk your horn and check under the hood before starting your car!

You can make an easy outdoor cat shelter using Styrofoam coolers, heavy plastic, and Gorilla tape, as shown in this video.
If you have questions or concerns about keeping pets warm in the winter, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We hope you have a warm and safe winter season!