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Keeping pets safe during winter’s cold weather

Cold weather poses serious dangers to pets.

You might think that being born with a fur coat makes you winter-ready, but cold weather can prove just as dangerous to pets as being left in a hot car in the summer. Your pet’s cold tolerance depends on their coat, body fat stores, age, health, and even their normal activity levels. Despite the fur coat, they’re just as susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia – as well as slips on ice and stumbles in snow – as we are.

Which pets are most at risk from cold winter weather?

Even dogs with thick coats require extra care when the snow starts to fall, but some pets are more vulnerable than others. If your pet falls into one of the listed groups, they may be more susceptible to weather-related problems.

  • Elderly and/or arthritic pets that are more prone to aches and falls
  • Very young pets that have fewer fat stores and immature immune systems
  • Short-haired dogs and cats that have less protection from the cold
  • Pets with short legs and bellies that are closer to the cold ground
  • Pets with diseases that make temperature regulation more difficult, including:
    • Heart disease
    • Kidney disease
    • Hormonal imbalances
    • Diabetes

Top tips for keeping pets safe in the winter

Winter dog

Start healthy to stay healthy.

During the winter, pets are more prone to kennel cough, flu, pneumonia, and other cold-related ailments. Cold weather also exacerbates medical conditions like arthritis. That makes early winter a good time for a wellness check to ensure your pet is healthy going into the season and to identify any potential risks that cold weather might worsen.

Maintain a healthy diet.

While it’s never a good idea to fatten a pet up, it is important to keep them within a healthy weight range during the winter. If you have outdoor pets, they will need more calories to generate body heat and stay warm. If you’re not sure what the best winter diet for your pet is, talk to us. We offer a weight management programs for pets who may have put on holiday weight (yes, it happens) as well as nutritional counseling for pets whose diets may need a change.


Keep pets inside if possible.

Though huskies and other dogs bred for cold climates may enjoy a romp through the snow, no pet should be left outside during below-freezing weather. If your cat or dog is an outdoor-only pet, provide a sturdy, warm shelter that is built off the ground with the door facing away from prevailing winds. Insulate the floor of the shelter with thick, dry bedding, and change it frequently as your pet will be track in snow that will leave the bedding wet. Likewise, frequently change their water supply to ensure it doesn’t freeze.

Walk cautiously.

A warm, dry sweater or dog coat paired with booties can make walks with short-haired pets more comfortable. Booties also protect your pet’s feet from antifreeze and other toxic chemicals that build up on snow-covered ground. During walks, keep an eye on your pet for whining, shivering, burrowing, and other signs of hypothermia, and if you suspect your pet has frostbite, bring them in right away.

Protect your pets!

Be prepared for winter.

Glove Cities Veterinary Hospital is a full service small animal hospital located in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, so we know cold as well as we know cats and dogs. If you’re concerned about your pet’s health in the winter, call Gloves City Veterinary Hospital at 518-725-8117.