top of page

Winter Pet Safety

Fur Babies Need Special Care and Attention in Winter Months

Written by Jessica Brody of

When the mercury starts to drop, it’s time to think of the best ways to keep your fur babies safe from inclimate weather. This is especially important for older animals, or those who are visually impaired. Even pets that live outdoors need a little extra TLC in the winter. Humane Society of the Palouse offers a wealth of information on best practices for animal care and husbandry.

Shelter Needs
It’s absolutely essential that animals have access to warm, dry shelter in the winter months. It’s preferable that they be housed indoors - but at minimum, outdoor shelters should be gated, heated, and well-insulated. Temperatures can drop unpredictably in the winter, and wind and rain can make cold weather even harsher. Consider installing a doggy door to a garage, basement, or mudroom for outdoor pets to retreat to when the weather is particularly bad. Older animals and those with compromised immune
systems should not be left outside under any circumstances.

Food, Water, And Feral Animals
All animals should have regular access to clean, fresh water, but it’s even more important during colder months. Consider a heated water bowl for outside animals. Domestic animals also consume more calories when it’s colder, so you may need to increase your feedings to ensure they have a protective layer of warm winter insulation. If you feed strays or feral animals, Pet Helpful recommends a makeshift shelter that
includes food and water and will help them brave the elements. If possible, trapping strays and taking them to a shelter may be the better bet for their health and well-being.

Foot Care
Many people use salt on sidewalks, roadways, and driveways as a way to melt ice and snow. While it’s an effective technique, salt can be a toxic irritant on both cats’ and dogs’ tender paw pads. According to Chewy, when your pet comes in from the outside, wipe their feet and apply bag balm or the less expensive Vaseline to keep their paws supple and hydrated. If you can get your pet to wear booties for walks and outdoor trips,
all the better. Booties with treads can also be beneficial for older animals, particularly those who may have poor balance and be prone to slipping on icy surfaces.

Safety Features

It’s essential to keep pets from antifreeze in the winter month - it’s quite poisonous. It also goes without saying that dogs should be leashed when they’re outside. Microchipping and ID tags are also beneficial. An escape-proof harness may work better than a traditional neck collar, as it’s safer and also protects against trachea damage that can occur if a dog pulls and strains on walks. If your dog allows you to put on a harness, they’ll also be more amenable to wearing doggy clothing - a cold weather necessity for older dogs, smaller pups, and those with light coats.


Pets appreciate soft, warm bedding, and in colder temps, it’s especially important. While you can invest quite a bit in high-end memory foam heated beds, you can also get by with a comfy pile of old pillows and blankets. Keep in mind, older animals with arthritis can benefit from an elevated orthopedic bed that cushions their bones and makes them more comfortable. If you notice your older pet seems to limp a bit after rising, consult your vet to see if they would benefit from a prescription medication or a less-expensive
over-the-counter joint supplement.

While your pet should have regular checkups with the vet, colder months can exacerbate underlying health issues, so careful attention and monitoring is necessary. Older animals, in particular, are prone to slips and falls, and could potentially wander away, especially when the days are short. Keep an eye on any changes that warrant a vet’s consultation - changes in diet, bathroom habits, whining, crying, or limping all need
a closer look.

Humane Society of the Palouse is dedicated to providing the animals in its facility with the highest level of care possible during their stays, providing beloved companion animals everything they need to live a healthy and happy life. To foster, adopt, volunteer, or donate, visit the site or reach out by calling (208) 883-1166.

Photo By Pixabay


Winter Pet Safety Reminders

  • Know your dog’s limits! 

    • Some dogs are more susceptible to the cold than others. Short-coated, thin, elderly, or very young dogs get cold more quickly, so adjust the amount of time they stay outside!

    • If your dog enjoys being outdoors and you will be outside longer than a few minutes, consider outfitting it with a sweater or coat to keep it warm.

    • Hypothermia and frostbite pose major risks to dogs in winter, so remember, if it is too cold for you, it may be too cold for your dog!

  •  Check your car hood

    • Cats often sleep in the wheel wells of cars during the winter months to keep warm. If you start your car and a cat is sleeping on your tire, it can be severely injured by moving engine parts.

    • Prevent injuries by banging loudly on your hood or honking the horn before starting your car. This will wake up the cat and give it a chance to escape before starting the car.

  • Wipe your pets paws 

    • During winter walks, your dog’s paws can pick up all kinds of toxic chemicals – salt, antifreeze, or de-icers. Be sure to wipe off your dog’s paws when you return from walks to prevent him from licking it off and becoming sick.

    • Purchase pet-safe de-icers for your home for an extra level of safety. And when wiping off your dog’s paws, remember to check for signs of injury, such as cracked or bleeding paws.

    • Always clean your pets paws from frozen snow and ice. Ice stuck to their paw hairs can be extremely uncomfortable.

  • Always keep your pet contained

    • More pets become lost in the winter than any other season because snowfall can disguise recognizable scents that would normally help them find their way home.

    • Prevent your pets from becoming lost by keeping dogs leashed on walks and, just in case you are separated from your pets, make sure their collars have up-to-date contact information and they are microchipped.

  • Avoid walking or playing on ice

    • When walking your dog, be sure to avoid frozen lakes and ponds. Ice can crack, and you and your dog could fall through.

  • Leave them home

    • Just as hot cars are dangerous for pets in the summer, cold cars pose a threat as well. Only take your pets in the car if it is necessary, and never leave them unattended.

  • Make sure you and your pet are always visible 

    • Due to Daylight Savings, many of us are relegated to walking our dogs in the dark. Keep yourself and your dog are safe by wearing reflective gear (clothing, leash, collar, etc) and keeping your dog close when walking on the street.

  • Give your outdoor pets safe shelter

    • If your pets live outdoors primarily, bring them indoors during sub-zero temperatures.

    • For the rest of the winter, provide them with a dry, draft-free shelter that is large enough to allow them to sit and lay down comfortably, but small enough to conserve body heat.  The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. 

    • Pets who spend a lot of time outside need more food to replace energy lost from trying to stay warm. Use plastic food and water dishes instead of metal. When the temperature is low enough, your pets’ tongue can become stuck to the metal bowl.

  • Avoid chemical spills

    • Antifreeze attracts cats and dogs because it is very sweet to taste, but it is extremely poisonous and can cause serious illness or death when ingested.

    • Be sure to clean up any antifreeze that spills in your garage, and keep the bottle somewhere your pets cannot access.

  •  Be prepared for emergencies 

    • Winter brings extreme weather that can cause power outages. Have an emergency plan and make sure they include your pets!

    • Have an emergency kit with enough food, water, and medication to last your pets at least five days. Most likely you will never need it, but if you do, you will be thankful you planned ahead!

bottom of page