Winter can be a dangerous season for pets. Follow these tips to help prevent cold weather from affecting your pet’s health.

Keep your pet indoors as much as possible. House-trained dogs will need to go outside to relieve themselves, but be sure to limit their time outside. Take shorter walks and increase the indoor enrichment such as trick training and playing to help keep your pet physically and mentally active.

If it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet, so keep your pet indoors! If left outside, pets can get frostbite or even freeze to death. By law, if your dog or cat lives outside, you must provide adequate shelter and bedding.

After a walk in the cold, clean off stinging and irritated paws with a towel.  Once inside, be sure to wash and dry your dog’s feet, legs, and belly to remove ice, salt, and chemicals, and check for cracks in paw pads or redness between toes.

If you’re concerned that the fur on your dog’s feet is too long, speak with your vet or groomer about whether the fur should be trimmed.

Accessorize! Dress your pup in a warm coat or sweater (especially short-haired and smaller sized dogs) to help them stay warm. Practice dressing up your pup with treats or other incentives before it gets cold.

Booties help prevent sand and salt from getting lodged between bare toes and causing irritation. Massaging petroleum jelly or other paw protectants into paw pads before going outside can be a good alternative if your dog doesn’t like wearing booties.

Although manufacturers are now adding a bittering agent to make antifreeze less attractive, it is still lethal if ingested. Immediately and thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle in your garage and driveway

In cold weather, cats that are allowed outside may climb up inside the hood of a car or in a wheel well seeking warmth and shelter. This can lead to injuries or death when the engine is started. To prevent these incidents, keep your cat indoors at all times. To protect other cats, knock on your car’s hood or beep your horn before starting your car in cold weather.

Exposure to extreme cold temperatures can lead to hypothermia, which can be fatal.

It is essential that pet-owners take all precautions to prevent their animals from severe weather dangers including frostbite. Frostbite is most common on the pet’s extremities, including tips of the ears, tail, and toes. Keeping pets inside and limiting time outside for the pet to relieve themselves are key to preventing frostbite.

Frostbite symptoms in pets are similar to humans except pets are not able to express their discomfort. It is important to know the signs of frostbite in pets, including:

  • Discoloration of the affected area of skin (often pale, gray or bluish)
  • Coldness and/or brittleness of the area when touched
  • Pain when body part(s) are touched
  • Swelling of the affected area(s)
  • Blisters or skin ulcers
  • Areas of blackened or dead skin

If you believe your pet has any of these signs or symptoms, wrap him in a warm towel and seek veterinary attention immediately.

If you would like information from an Anti-Cruelty Society Behavior Specialist regarding this behavior topic, please call 312-645-8253 or email

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