Keeping pets warm in winter is part of responsible pet ownership.

Most of us are aware of the dangers of our pets overheating in warm weather, but what about their safety in the cold? Although most are covered in a protective layer of fur, this is often not enough to protect them from winter wind, rain, snow, and wind. A good rule of thumb is, if it’s too cold outside for you, it’s too cold for your pet.

It’s true that some Northern breeds are better equipped to handle cold conditions than short-haired, thin-skinned breeds (like a chihuahua). But even these dogs need protection from the elements. Here are some of our best practices to keep everyone in your pack safe and comfortable:

Keeping Pets Warm

Like humans, pets will tolerate cold to different degrees, depending on their breed, age, coat condition, general health, and nutrition. You know your pet best, so be mindful of what they need.

When temperatures take a nosedive, be sure to:

Keep them in–the best way to keep pets warm is to leave them indoors when it is cold outside. A warm bed or a place up off the floor will go a long way to keeping them comfortable, especially if they’re older. If there is a warmer part of your house, allow them access to that area.

Consider sweaters–ugly holiday sweaters aside, some pets will need an extra layer of warmth, even while indoors. A warm sweater or dog coat will also keep pets warmer when going outside for potty breaks or the occasional walk. Older pets, sick pets, puppies and kittens, and thin-skinned, short-coated dogs will be very appreciative of this creature comfort.

Although they may not add much warmth, booties can be a great addition to your dog’s outdoor wardrobe because they can protect sensitive paws from ice, snow, and toxic chemicals that can collect in the fur between the pads.

Provide Shelter–if your dog must be outdoors, he must have access to a warm, dry shelter. This shelter should be up off the ground, with insulation of some kind (blankets, shavings, straw, or burlap sacks). The opening of the shelter should be covered with plastic or canvas, to effectively block wind and precipitation. Ideally, you would have a heat source connected. 

Outdoor cats–cats should not be left outside in inclement weather, even if they freely roam during other seasons. A shed, garage, or barn will give enough shelter to most outdoor cats, but be sure to provide a warm bed for them as well.

Speak up–if you see an animal (horses included) left out in the cold, gently let the owners know you’re concerned. Most people aren’t aware of cold weather concerns for pets and will be quick to correct any problems. If you meet resistance, contact the Humane Society of the United States for guidance.  

A Word About Community/ Feral Cats

If your neighborhood has a feral cat community, know that these cats also need shelter from the cold. Many of them will find any warm spot they can–including a warm car engine! Make sure you check under your hood and honk your horn before starting your engine.

If you’re so inclined, many people have made feral cat shelters using any number of DIY materials. Here’s a video to get you started.

If you have any questions or concerns about keeping pets warm this winter, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. The pet experts at Elmhurst Animal Care Center are here to help!