Prepare Animals for Winter Weather

Winter weather can bring a lot of fun and activity, but it can also cause dangerous situations for our animal friends.  Just as it can be on people, winter weather conditions can be hard on animals.  It is important that we take all necessary steps to ensure our four legged companions are well cared for in places throughout our country that experience extreme cold, bitter wetness, snow and ice. 

There are many easy things that we can do as pet parents to help our furry friends stay happy and healthy throughout the winter.  They rely on us to provide for their well-being and safety.  If at all possible, bring your pets inside during the cold winter months.  If your animals must be outside, take some easy precautions to help keep them safe.

Housing: provide safe, warm housing for cats, dogs, rabbits and any other animal you have. 

Provide a dry, draft free shelter large enough for the animal to sit and lay down, but small enough to contain their body heat around them.
Raise the floor of the shelter off the ground and cover it with cedar shavings, straw or warm blankets.
Make sure the shelter protects from the wind and that the doorway is covered with a cover that is waterproof and thick enough to keep cold air out. 
For horses and livestock, make sure to provide at minimum, a three-sided shelter to protect from wind, snow and rain.

Keep Warm

Bring animals inside to get warm.  Do not leave them out in the cold for too long.
Provide sweaters and warm blankets for pets outside.

Food and Water: make sure to provide plenty of food and water

Animals out in the cold require more food to keep up their body temperature.
Water dishes quickly freeze, so be sure to ensure you pet has regular access to clean, fresh, unfrozen water.
Use plastic food and water bowls in the winter, as metal can cause your pet’s tongue to stick and freeze to it. 
Use heated buckets or tubs for livestock and horses. 

Avoid Poisoning: make sure to keep your pet away from the widely used winter chemicals.

Antifreeze is a deadly poison. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze out of reach in safe containers. 
Make sure to clean your pets’ paws after being outside on public roadways.  Salt and other chemicals used to deice can irritate your companions padded feet and their mouth when they lick to clean themselves. 

Care for Neighborhood Pets and Wildlife

Warm engines are enticing to many small animals during cold weather, so bang on your car hood, or make other loud noises to scare them away before starting your engine.
Homeless animals are often scared of people, so if you can, provide extra food, shelter and water for these poor animals. 

Keep Your Pets From Getting Lost

Make sure to keep fences and gates secure, as winter weather can create opportunities for your pet to get out. 
Make sure your pet is wearing an ID, so they can be safely returned home if they are lost in the cold. 

Being outside can put our pets at risk for frostbite and hypothermia, and exposed skin runs the risk of permanent damage when noses, ears and paw pads are exposed to cold temperatures for too long.  Constantly check for signs in your pet if they have been exposed to cold weather.  If your pet is showing signs of the discomfort in the cold, look for the following: whining, shivering, seeming anxious, slowing down, or looking for a warm place to burrow.  Frostbite and hypothermia are two common repercussions of leaving an animal too long in the cold weather.  An animal’s ears, paws, noses and tails are susceptible to frostbite and can get cold enough to have ice crystals form in the tissue and damage it.  Sometimes the damage does not show up for several days after the exposure, so if you suspect frostbite, bring the animal into a warm environment and soak their extremities in lukewarm water for 20 minutes.  Do not rub the tissue, but dab it dry.  Wrap the animal in blankets and follow up with your veterinarian.  Hypothermia presents itself through signs like constant shivering, depression, lethargy or weakness.  If this is seen in your pet, wrap them in blankets in a warm environment and get to your veterinarian. 

Winter doesn’t have to be a dangerous time of year if we plan ahead and take precautions to make sure our pets are healthy, happy, well-fed and warm. 

Written by: Megan Frison

Information was gathered from and more can be found at:

"Protect Your Pet During Winter and Cold Weather: The Humane Society of the United States." Humane Society. The Humane Society of the United States, 6 Jan. 2014. Web. 15 Oct. 2014.

"Protect Your Pets During Snowstorms." Winter Pet Care. American Red Cross, 2014. Web. 15 Oct. 2014.

"Winter Pet Care – Pets in Cold Climates –" Winter Pet Care – Pets in Cold Climates – American Animal Hospital Association, 2014. Web. 15 Oct. 2014.

"Winter Weather Tips for Animals." Winter Weather Tips for Animals. Sacramento County Animal Care and Regulation, 2014. Web. 15 Oct. 2014.



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