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How to Keep Pets Safe From Cold-Weather

Winter Care for Your Pet

When it's cold outside, extra precautions are required to ensure your pet's well-being. Follow these tip to keep your pet warm and cozy during these chilly months.

The outdoor factor

  • Cats can get frostbite, and many seek warmth by crawling into car engines, which can be dangerous or fatal. Cats should be kept indoors year-round.
  • Dogs also should be kept inside if possible. If kept outside, they should have a draft-free shelter large enough to stand and turn around in, yet small enough to retain body heat. Use a layer of straw or other bedding material to help insulate your pet against the cold. Different breeds of dogs have different sheltering needs. Purchase a commercially produced doghouse, or contact your local humane society for construction plans for a doghouse suitable for your climate. Please be sure to contact your veterinarian if you have questions.
  • After letting your pet out to relieve herself, be sure to wipe her paws when she comes back inside. Tender pads can be injured from salts and other ice-melting chemicals. These products can be irritating to skin and mouth. Signs of ingestion include excessive drooling, vomiting, and depression.
  • Outdoor animals typically need more calories in the winter. This allows their body to produce body heat. Increase the amount you feed your pet if she is allowed to go outside. Indoor-only animals may actually need fewer calories to avoid weight gain.

Watch what your pet ingests

  • Batteries contain corrosives that, if bitten or swallowed, can cause ulceration in your pet's mouth, tongue, and gastrointestinal tract.
  • Antifreeze is deadly to pets. The sweet taste is irresistible to animals kept in the garage in colder months. Look for "safe" non-toxic antifreeze and make sure all spills are cleaned immediately and thoroughly. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet may have ingested any antifreeze!
  • Winter typically is the cold and flu season. Medications as basic as aspirin can be harmful and dangerous to pets. Do not medicate your animal yourself unless under the direction of your veterinarian. Keep all prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs out of animals reach.
  • Rat and mouse killers are used more frequently during the winter months. Place these products in areas that are inaccessible to your pet.

If you suspect your pet has gotten into a potentially poisonous substance, call your veterinarian immediately! Have the telephone number to your local emergency animal hospital readily available.


Your pet’s teeth should be checked at least once a year by your veterinarian for early signs of a problem and to keep your pet’s mouth healthy.

Have your pet’s teeth checked sooner if you observe any of the following problems:

  • bad breath
  • broken or loose teeth
  • extra teeth or retained baby teeth
  • teeth that are discolored or covered in tartar
  • abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food from the mouth
  • reduced appetite or refusal to eat
  • pain in or around the mouth
  • bleeding from the mouth
  • swelling in the areas surrounding the mouth

Some pets become irritable when they have dental problems, and any changes in your pet’s behavior should prompt a visit to your veterinarian. Always be careful when evaluating your pet’s mouth, because a painful animal may bite.

Causes of pet dental problems

Although cavities are less common in pets than in people, they can have many of the same dental problems that people can develop:

  • broken teeth and roots
  • periodontal disease
  • abscesses or infected teeth
  • cysts or tumors in the mouth
  • malocclusion, or misalignment of the teeth and bite
  • broken (fractured) jaw
  • palate defects (such as cleft palate)


(Read more information about Flea & Tick Safety as well as Heartworm Prevention on our Additional Topics Page.)

The Best Treatment is Prevention!  Year-round prevention is the best!


Pets in the City Magazine, Digital Issues.


AKC Family Dog Magazine, past digital Issues are available:


AKC - Your Dog's Health Articles - Interesting articles about your dog's health and why they do what they do.