Dog Cold Weather Safety Tips

It’s a common and true statement that “if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pets.” While people and dogs alike can enjoy the different seasons, changes of weather are felt more intensely by dogs. It takes them longer to adjust to the change. Yes, there are some dogs that love cold weather, but any pet can suffer greatly from cold, and if they’re without shelter, their lives are in danger. In this article you’ll learn tips to help your dog enjoy winter days while remaining safe and as warm as possible.

How to keep your dog comfortable in cold weather.

Most dogs are fine at 45 degrees Fahrenheit and up, although there are some that will be uncomfortable at that temperature. Some very small dogs like Chihuahuas and dogs with thin coats like Greyhounds can feel cold and even shiver at that temperature.

When the temperature drops below 32 degrees, dogs will feel chilled. When it drops below 20 degrees, you’ll want to provide a coat unless it’s a breed built for the cold. Always remember to factor in wind chill and if it’s raining or snowing. A bitter cold wind combined with rain or snow will make the temperature feel much colder to you and your dog.

Also keep in mind that not all dogs handle cold the same. Dogs from colder climates such as the Alaskan Malamute, Samoyed, and Husky, are built for cold weather. Small dogs are not so tolerant. Their size puts them at a disadvantage when they try to keep their body above the snow. They feel the cold in ways that larger dogs don’t.

Pet Cold Weather Safety Tips Include:

Help your dog’s skin retain moisture.

 Those daily treks out of a warm house into the cold air and back in again can leave your dog with itchy, flaky skin. A humidifier for your home will help your pooch’s skin stay hydrated. It will help you too during the winter months. Try to avoid bathing your dog during the winter. If you must, be sure to use a moisturizing shampoo and rinse and dry well.

Make sure your dog has a comfortable place to sleep.

Houses can be drafty and floors cold. Make sure your dog has a warm, cozy place to sleep, such as a dog bed or thick blanket. Give him an extra blanket to snuggle up in. This is especially important for seniors who may have arthritis. Cold winter weather makes arthritis aches and pains even worse. Your canine friend will be thankful for a soft, warm bed to curl up in.

Dog Cold Weather Safety Tips in Kane County, IL

Your dog needs extra energy in winter.

Trying to stay warm in winter takes extra energy and your dog burns more calories. You may need to feed a little more during the winter to keep your dog’s weight up. If you’re concerned about the extra kibble adding on pounds, consult with your veterinarian and follow their advice. Make sure to always have clean, fresh water available for good hydration. Keeping your dog well-hydrated will help skin conditions as well as maintaining their health.

Don’t clip your dog during cold months.

Longer hair will help your dog stay warm in winter. If you have your dog clipped short in the warmer months, leave the hair longer for warmth. If you feel you must have your dog’s hair groomed, stick with just getting a trim.

Health conditions make it harder to regulate body temperature.

Keep in mind, if your dog has kidney disease, heart disease, or diabetes, these conditions can impede their ability to keep up their body temperature. Seniors and puppies will also quickly become cold.

Each dog’s cold tolerance is different.

Some dogs are simply less tolerant of the cold than others. You need to know what your dog’s tolerance levels are. What may be “normal” for similar dogs will not apply to every dog.

Dog clothes can help.

 Clothing and booties can help your dog, but it isn’t a cure-all for the cold. Dogs lose heat through their mouth, nose, and paws. Don’t fool yourself that clothing will keep your dog toasty warm and protect them from all danger from the cold.

Dog Cold Weather Safety Tips

Pay attention to your dog’s actions.

 If your dog is outside and starts whining or barking, that’s a pretty good sign that they’re cold and needs to come inside. Other signs to watch for that indicate they want or need to come back inside include:

  • Doesn’t want to move.
  • May hold one paw up.
  • Shows anxiety.
  • Wants to go back home.
  • Hiding behavior, seeking shelter.

Ice is dangerous to your dog.

 Watch out for patches of ice. Dogs are just as prone to slipping and falling on ice and being injured as people. Guide your dog away from ice.

Be careful around ponds and lakes.

 Keep your dog leashed around ponds and lakes. Half frozen, or thin ice on a pond or lake can be lethal. Dogs that fall through ice stand a high chance of drowning. If they manage to escape the freezing water, hypothermia is an immediate danger.

Making daily winter walks fun and safe.

 While going on walks are fun and necessary for your dog’s health and well-being, cold weather brings problems to watch out for on your daily walk. Chemicals, salt, and sand can irritate paws and become lodged between toes. Rubbing a little petroleum jelly into the foot pads can help with some protection. Booties are even better.

Make sure to clean and dry your dog’s paws when you get home to remove any material they picked up on your walk. Don’t let your dog lick their paws clean. You don’t want your dog to ingest salt and chemicals from their feet. Chemicals in de-icers can cause chemical burns so be diligent to get your dog cleaned off, including their stomach if you see snow on it.

Never leave a pet in a car.

Never leave a dog (or cat) in a car. A car won’t keep them warm. In fact, it will do just the opposite and lock cold inside. Pets left inside a car too long in sub-freezing weather can freeze to death.

Clean up leaked anti-freeze.

Watch out for anti-freeze leaks. Both dogs and cats will lick anti-freeze because it tastes sweet, and if it contains ethylene glycol, it is poison. Signs of anti-freeze poisoning include wobbling when walking, vomiting, seizures, and coma. Seek emergency veterinary care immediately if you suspect anti-freeze poisoning.

Can Pets get Hypothermia?

Hypothermia is one of the most common dangers to pets in cold weather. Normal body temperature for a dog is 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature below 99 degrees is cause for concern, though anything below 100 degrees can be considered hypothermia.

Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, pale skin, listlessness to lethargy. When hypothermia is sustained for too long, it can lead to coma, organ shutdowns, and death.

If you believe your dog is suffering from hypothermia, wrap them in warm blankets. Consider warming the blankets in the dryer and keep changing the blankets for warmth. You can wrap a heating pad or a wrapped hot water bottle (make sure it isn’t too hot) and place it near but not on their skin. You don’t want to cause a burn. Remove the hot water bottle as soon as the dog’s temperature reaches 100 degrees. You need to check your pet’s temperature every ten minutes. If it stays below 98 degrees, you need to seek emergency veterinary care.

What Does Dog Frostbite Look Like?

Be careful of rubbing a wet pet. If there is any frostbite, rubbing could do more harm to tissue than good. Frostbite can range from mild to severe. When a pet has hypothermia, they may have frostbite too. It primarily appears on the tips of ears, toes, and tails.

Symptoms of frostbite include:

  • First degree – skin on extremities will be pale and hard. When warmed it will become red, scaly, and swollen.
  • Second degree – blisters will form on the skin.
  • Third degree – the skin will become dark. This may happen over several days and it’s an indication of gangrene.

If you believe your pet has frostbite:

  • Warm as if treating for hypothermia. Never place a pet directly on a heating source.
  • Take a warm towel and pat the frostbitten area. Don’t rub or massage the area. Rubbing and massaging damages tissue and is painful.
  • If you believe the frostbite is severe, get emergency veterinary care for your pet.


Following these tips will help you and your pet enjoy the cold weather in a fun and responsible  manner. While freezing temperatures can be dangerous, a little know-how will get you and your pup through to warmer days with no problems.

Knowing the dangers a pet owner can encounter in cold weather goes a long way to keeping your dog safe and happy. Winter is a wonderland that can be a source of good times and fond memories that will last a lifetime. Being prepared will make spending time outdoors with your canine friend even more enjoyable and rewarding.

If you have any questions about your dog’s health, please schedule an appointment with us. Here at Dundee Animal Hospital, we want to be sure your pet is in good health!