Best Cold Weather Pet Tips to Keep Your Dogs and Cats Safe and Warm in Winter

By: Nathan Grant

As you bundle up to stay warm outside, your pets need care against the elements as well. It's up to you to make sure your pet stays safe and warm. Let's look at some common solutions to help your dog or cat stay warm all winter long!

Regardless of your pet, during harsh freezes and bitter-cold temperatures, it’s a safe bet to just keep the pets indoors! Wherever they nest, be sure there is a cold weather pet warmer or pet bed near them if they get cold.

Best Cold Weather Pet Tips to Keep Your Dogs and Cats Safe and Warm This Wint

Cold Weather and Your Pet’s Skin and Coat

Just like people, pets suffer from dry skin in the winter months. Using a quality butter or oil can be a great natural way to keep skin soft and alleviated from cracking. Also, try not to dry out your pets skin with too many baths.

If you usually shave your pet, allow them to keep their protective fur layer. During the winter months, dogs will shed some and increase the amount of fur. Keep your pet’s fur nicely brushed to ensure the coat is in the best possible condition. For anti-itch relief, I highly recommend this natural skin tonic for dogs or cats by Wondercide. They use natural and organic ingredients. I’ve personally used it several times on my dogs and it seems to work well.

Check for Frostbite on Dog’s Paws and Cat’s Paws

Your dog or cat can get frostbite from spending too much time outdoors in winter. Ears and paws are especially vulnerable! Checking daily to make sure there are no signs of frostbite is the best way to keep your pet healthy. Frostbite can be very painful for pets, so keep watch to protect your dog or cat from discomfort or continued frostbite development.

To help prevent frostbite, dog hats for cold weather are a great option to keep ears safe. A dog hat that covers the ears is the only option that fully protects your pup!

Beware of Hypothermia in Dogs and in Cats

Drying your pet off as soon you are back indoors is the best way to avoid continued cold exposure. Wipe snow off of paws and use towels to keep fur dry. You wouldn’t want to be stuck shivering all day, and your pet doesn’t either! Hypothermia in dogs or cats is possible.

Signs of Dog Hypothermia in pets can include weariness and breathing problems. Keep watch for worsening symptoms and be sure to take your pet to the veterinarian right away if conditions come up or worsen. Signs of hypothermia in cats include shivering, drowsiness, and slow or shallow breathing. Again, if your cat just isn’t acting her normal self, call your veterinarian and just consult with them over the phone. They will let you know what to do.

Bottom Line: Cold weather can cause your pet to have dry, itchy skin. So it’s important to keep your dog’s skin hydrated and protected. There are several natural remedies available. And always avoid keeping your dog outside when it’s too cold for you to go outside (barefoot). Take actions to protect against hypothermia and wipe those paws clean!

Cold Weather Pet Tips for Dogs

Just How Cold Is “Too Cold” for Dogs?

Image from

As you can see from this chart from Go Pet Plan, depending on your breed, exposure to even above freezing temperatures can cause dangerous problems. If it’s too cold for you to walk barefoot, think of your pooch!

What about for walks? Should I walk my dog in cold weather?

First, remember your dog’s paws are not shoes, unless of course you were to actually buy your dog a pair of dog cold weather boots then he would be more protected. But most dogs need to be trained to wear clothing and shoes. I have one dog who loves wearing shoes and one who won’t walk an inch with shoes regardless of the reward!

When walking your pooch, limit the time of exposure to freezing temperatures and make sure you stay outside for no longer than a few minutes. If it’s below freezing, I’d consider avoiding walking unless you have to. Or walk your dog earlier in the day. Regardless of breed and the size of dog, think about how cold the surface is on the walkways and how cold it must be for your dog!

What’s worse?

Extreme dry, cold weather, leads to cracked skin and could possibly lead to infections depending on the environment you are living in. I recommend considering apply coconut oil to your dog’s paws to help nourish and protect his paws. It’s ok if he licks it, it’s good for him.

Should I keep my dog outside in cold weather?

When you feel it is too cold to spend time outside, it is likely too cold for your dog to spend extensive amounts of time outside as well. Staying with your dog outside is a good way to gauge the temperature, while also giving you an opportunity to supervise your dog. As soon as your dog is done using the potty, head back inside!

For time spent outdoors, a jacket, or waterproof sweater for your dog is a great option. If you are putting on your fluffy coat to go for a walk, your dog will appreciate a cold weather dog jacket!

What does it mean when my dog limps outside in cold weather?

When it’s very cold outside, just like in humans, dogs can become stiff and arthritic, especially in older dogs. If this is the case, they may also begin to shiver and shake. This is usually a sign of arthritic pain. Make sure you feed your dog a species appropriate diet and that he has plenty of access to quality nutrition. You may also consider supplementing with glucosamine and omega-3 fish oils.

When walking your dog and you notice him limping outside when it’s cold, what should you do? First thing, avoid salt treated roads. It’s typical to encounter salt treated roads and sidewalks in winter-prone areas. This salt is capable of melting ice, and is also capable of causing discomfort to your pet. The salt, and other melting agents, can end up burning your dog’s paws! This can end up causing your dog to limp.

One of the best options, aside from avoiding roads and sidewalks, for your dog is a pair of dog cold weather boots. Protecting dog paws in winter is the best way to avoid pain and discomfort on the bottoms of your beloved pet’s feet. Boots can also provide a means of protection from sand and salt getting caked up in the pads of your dog’s feet.

If living in an area where you salt your own driveway and sidewalk, try to find a pet-friendly option. Even if using pet shoes for your dog, this can prevent any of your friend’s and family’s pets from feeling discomfort from harsh salts and ice melts.

Why is my dog coughing in cold weather?

As the seasons change, your dog may end up developing a cough.The stress of the changing temperatures and weather can put a strain on your pet. If there are any accompanying symptoms, it is best to take your pet to the vet to check for canine para-influenza virus or other Canine Infectious Respiratory Diseases.

“Ask your vet for their recommended cold weather pet tips for your area and your pet.”

For dogs that have asthma, breathing can be more difficult in the winter. The cold weather can cause coughing or wheezing, due to the airway struggling to open fully. Keep an eye on pre-existing health conditions, as the cold weather can worsen symptoms.

Bottom Line: If the weather is too cold for you, it is too cold for your dog. Winter attire can keep your dog safe in cold weather. Dogs need a jacket and boots, just like you! This protects skin and paws from discomfort.

Common Questions and Cold Weather Pet Tips for Cats

Can my cat still go outside in winter?

Even if cats spend most time outdoors in warmer weather, it is best to encourage cats to spend as much time as possible indoors. Cats can be inclined to sleep on car engines and in other warm areas in parked cars, posing a danger to their health.If cats are spending time outdoors, a cat house or shelter is the best option to leave a safe space to keep warm. There are heated options that allow your cat to keep comfortable despite the elements.

Just How Cold Is “Too Cold” for Cats?

Cats, much like dogs, should consider common sense rules. The rule of thumb is that when temps dip below 32 degrees, bring your kitties indoors! Unless they’ve already sensed it and have come indoors!

Should I change food for my cats in winter?

If your cat eats outdoors, their food can stay the same but it is important to check it is not frozen. Checking throughout the day is a great tip for ensuring your cat has access to food all day.

Double check your cat’s water supply whenever checking the food as well. If the water freezes, your cat is more likely to feel inclined to drink from other sources. This can lead to drinking dangerous chemicals such as anti-freeze. There are heated water dishes and food dishes available to prevent issues with freezing.

How do I keep my cat warm but keep heating costs down?

It is important to keep your home heated in winter, but cold weather pet beds can be an option that allows for lower temperatures in the home without the guilt. If you are trying to keep costs low, just ensure your pets have ways to snuggle up and stay cozy! If your cat likes to spend time looking out the window, add padding to stop any drafts from coming in. This keeps your cat warmer while also lowering your heating bill. There are also fleece perch options available to increase comfort and warmth.

Bottom Line: It is important to encourage cats to stay indoors during the winter months. However when your cat is outdoors, be sure food and water are not frozen and provide a place for shelter.

To keep things simple: if you need it for yourself in the winter, your pet needs it too! As you put on your cold weather gear, strive to put on link jackets, hats, boots, and so on for your pet as well. If you need a warm blanket or bed, your pet likely needs the same!

For pets spending time outdoors, provide places of shelter and safety.

Report any pet owner who leaves their dogs outside below freezing temperatures to your local shelter or The ASPCA. Click here to learn how to report animal cruelty.

Your Turn! Have a tip you want to share? Leave a comment below!

Like It? Share It!


More In Dogs & Rescues