Tips For Caring For Your Pet This Winter

Embracing the Cold

As much as I don’t want to admit it, the cold weather has begun. For people, this means digging out the coats and boots we have stored since last year, putting different tires on the car, buying salt or sand for the driveway, and turning on the heat. But what does this cold weather mean for our pets? How do we prepare them?

Paw Protection

A big problem for our pets during colder weather is getting ice, snow, and salt in their paws. This can be extremely painful for our furry friends. It can lead to cracked, bleeding, sore, and sometimes infected paws. When there is snow and ice outside, and when people are using sand, salt, and chemical de-icing supplies, be sure to thoroughly clean and dry your pets paws when they come in. Dog snow boots are a great idea! They just may take your pup a bit of getting used to, but they are worth it for the protection they offer. During the winter months we often see cut paw pads and ripped toe nails. This can be from the ice itself, or from things hiding underneath it that the pet cannot see. If you notice any signs of your pets paws being uncomfortable, please call your veterinarian immediately.

Indoor Exercise Alternatives

Cold weather can often make exercise tough for pets. Just like for humans exercise is very important to leading a healthy life, so is it for our pets. Unfortunately, sometimes it is just too cold outside. This is where indoor exercise is a great idea. Many dog day cares and dog socials have indoor areas for pets. Indoor play time is also a great idea for cats. It can be a great time of the year to invest in some fun toys like a laser pointer to keep pets active! Working on obedience and tricks can be a great way to increase mental stimulation and pass time on those cold and snowy days.

Weather Appropriate Clothing

While pets do have fur coats, many are not properly acclimatized to the chilly weather. If it is too cold for you outside, it is likely too cold for your pet. Cats, young animals, and old or sick animals are especially at risk from the cold. If you have outdoor animals please keep an eye on the weather and make sure they are inside when it is cold, or when a storm is coming. Some pets may require snow boots and jackets.

Cold Weather and Car Safety

Many cats and other animals who are outside and cold will sometimes sleep under cars to try to find warmth. When preparing to leave and get in your car, try to remember to make noise and bang on the hood to wake up sleeping animals. This could save a life! Speaking of cold and cars, do not leave an animal unattended in a cold vehicle. Just like you cannot leave animals in hot cars in the summer, you cannot leave them out in the cold either. It is better safe than sorry, your pet may be happier at home where they are safe.

Adjusting Diet for Winter

Just like the cold weather can change how a pet exercises, it can also change their caloric needs. Just like people, some pets tend to lose or gain weight with the weather. This is likely due to changes in lifestyle and exercise. Keep an eye on your pet, some may require slight increases or decreases of food depending on the weather. If you have questions about what your pet is supposed to weigh or look like, please call your veterinarian.

Holiday Hazards

There are numerous holidays throughout the winter months. These holidays can bring their own hazards. Decorations can lead to obstructions, choking or lacerations if ingested. Food and drinks can be toxic or cause GI upset or pancreatitis. Many plants used for decorations are toxic to pets as well. Holiday parties can lead to stressed out pets. If hosting lots of people in your home, consider leaving your pets in a closed off area away from all the hustle and bustle. Leave them with some nice toys and food and they will be much happier. Parties can also lead to door accidentally being left open, so be sure to make sure your pets ID tag and microchip are up to date.

Toxicity Awareness in Winter

Winter can also lead to various toxicities. Anti freeze is extremely toxic to pets and if ingested needs immediate treatment. Many chemical de-icers, and other products used around the home are also toxic. Pet friendly options are out there for a long list of products, so do your best to look for those when purchasing things like anti freeze.


While winter does have its downsides, it can be fun for us and for our pets. Please keep these safety tips in mind and speak to your veterinary team if you have questions or if your pet is having issues. Fingers crossed for an early spring!

Written by Mikaila Cariou, RVT