How To Keep pets Safe In Cold Weather

Posted January 23rd, 2024 by SimpliSafe

Winter is a season of festive joy and togetherness, but it can also be a very hazardous time for your furry friends. If you don’t take proper precautions, the cold weather can cause a lot of stress and discomfort for your pets, or they could even be exposed to many potential dangers.

By being a responsible pet owner, you can avoid these dangers and keep your pets safe, comfortable and happy throughout the winter season. Here are 14 tips on how to keep pets warm in winter and how to ensure pet security and safety.

1. Regulate time outdoors

If the weather is too cold for you, it’s likely too cold for your pet as well. Even if you usually let pets such as cats roam freely during the rest of the year, it’s best to manage their time outdoors during very cold weather. Keep them inside when the temperature drops, and when you do let them outside, make sure you keep an eye on them and only let them out for a shorter amount of time.

Dogs will still need to have walks during winter, but you should make them a bit shorter if the temperature is very cold or there’s a lot of snow. You should also take plenty of supplies with you, such as dog coats, blankets, extra food and dog boots.

A less well-known danger of snow is that it can mask familiar scents, making it harder for your pets to find their way home if they get lost. This is why it’s very important to limit their time outdoors and always supervise them when out in the snow.

2. Make sure your pets are microchipped

In case your pets do go missing, you should ensure that they’re microchipped or have a collar with your contact information on it. Microchipping is the best option because collars can be lost easily if they come loose, and microchips can help prevent pet theft. You should also keep an eye on local social media groups to see if anyone’s posted about finding a lost pet.

3. Keep dogs warm on walks

As mentioned above, it’s still important to take your dog on walks, although you may want to limit the amount of time you spend outside if it’s very cold. If your dog has long hair, you should only trim their fur instead of cutting too much off as their longer coat will provide natural warmth during winter. Short-haired and elderly dogs should always have a coat or jumper they can wear on walks. You can also buy dog boots and paw protectors that’ll keep your dog’s paws warm and dry during snowy or icy conditions.

4. Stay visible in the dark

The shorter days in winter can make it harder for dog owners to find time to go for walks during the daytime, so you may end up outside after the sun goes down. If this is the case for you, make sure you stay safe on dark nights by using reflective dog leads and coats. You should also stay away from busy roads and ensure that your dog has good recall.

5. Protect their paws

When there’s snow and ice on the ground, going for walks can become uncomfortable for dogs. The snow can make their paws very cold and irritated, especially if there’s a lot of snowfall and their paws become compacted with snow. Always remember to thoroughly wash and dry your dog’s paws when you get home. Better yet, buy some dog boots to keep their paws warm and dry no matter the weather.

Not washing or covering your pet’s paws could be particularly dangerous if they walk in areas that have been gritted with rock salt. This can be both irritating to the skin and poisonous if your pet licks their feet after coming back inside.

6. Clean up antifreeze spills

Another poisonous substance your pet could encounter in the winter is antifreeze. Antifreeze contains a chemical called ethylene glycol, which is lethal to cats and dogs. Just one tablespoon of antifreeze can cause kidney failure in dogs, while one teaspoon can be fatal to cats.

Always clean your pet’s paws after they’ve been outside, as they may have stepped in antifreeze and could ingest it if they lick their paws. You should also keep your antifreeze in a secure location and clean up any spills immediately. Antifreeze tastes sweet to your pets, so they may try to drink it if they can access it.

Antifreeze poisoning causes symptoms such as seizures, drooling and vomiting. If you think your pet has ingested antifreeze or any other harmful substance, contact your vet immediately.

7. Adjust your pet’s food intake

Maintaining body heat can require a lot of energy, especially if your pet has a thin coat. As a result, you may need to increase your pet’s food intake during the winter to ensure that they’re getting enough calories to keep warm. 

Your pet’s ideal food intake will vary depending on their breed, size and age – it may also be worth consulting with your vet to ensure your pet gets the nutrients they need. Generally speaking. animals with thicker fur are better adapted to colder weather, which means you may not need to adjust their diets as much. Always provide plenty of water in addition to food, and make sure the water doesn’t freeze over if it’s kept outside. Outdoor animals should have plastic food and water bowls because metal bowls can get extremely cold, causing their tongues to stick to the surface.

8. Keep emergency supplies

Depending on where you live, you may experience more extreme weather conditions during the winter, such as storms and heavy snow. To prepare for these events, it’s important to keep emergency supplies for when you can’t leave your home or lose power, such as a first aid kit, non-perishable food items and blankets.

If you have pets, don’t forget to include the supplies they need when preparing for severe weather, such as extra blankets, medication and pet food. If you make sure you always have enough pet food to last several days in a snowstorm, this will keep your furry friends safe and give you peace of mind.

9. Provide a warm environment

In addition to keeping your home warm, it’s a good idea to provide a specific space for your pet to feel safe and warm. For example, if you're a dog or cat owner, give them their warm bedding they can snuggle up in on cold winter nights. Make sure there are plenty of blankets for them to use, and keep this material dry at all times. You can even buy special heating pads for dogs and cats, but make sure not to use ones designed for humans, as they won’t be the correct temperature for your pets.

10. Pet-proof your home

The winter season can bring additional hazards into your home, and since your pets will be staying inside more than usual, it’s even more vital that you pay attention to their surroundings. As always, harmful substances like cleaning products and antifreeze should be kept in a secure location, but keep an eye on other potential dangers like open fires and space heaters too. 

Never leave open flames unattended and never keep your space heaters on while you’re out of the house. As well as being potential fire hazards, fires and space heaters can be very dangerous to pets if they get too close. Avoid house fires and keep your pets safe in cold weather by following common-sense fire safety advice.

11. Invest in home security

According to Staffordshire Police, there’s traditionally a rise in residential burglaries between November and February, with a spike in December. This is due to a combination of factors, including the longer nights, the increased likelihood of people not being at home due to holidays and festive events, and the influx of potentially expensive Christmas gifts being stored in your house. Keeping your doors and windows locked and your valuables hidden is therefore even more important at this time of year.

Not only are break-ins incredibly stressful and upsetting for you, but they can also be traumatising for your pets. Some criminals may even be looking to steal pets, particularly if they’re an expensive breed. To keep you, your home and your pets safe from criminals, we would recommend investing in a wireless home security system that features indoor cameras, outdoor cameras and motion sensors that can catch burglars in the act. 

Here at SimpliSafe, our home security systems are designed with your pets in mind. Our motion sensors use infrared heat sensors and a precision human-form detection algorithm to differentiate between humans and pets, allowing your pets to roam freely without triggering your security system. This means you never have to compromise on your security, even if you have a house full of animals!

12. Avoid frostbite and hypothermia

Although frostbite and hypothermia are rare, especially if you limit your pet’s time outdoors during cold weather, you need to be aware of the signs and symptoms so you can act fast. Symptoms of frostbite in pets include discoloured skin, blisters, coldness, swelling and dead patches of skin. Symptoms of hypothermia include weakness, breathing difficulties and muscle stiffness.

If you suspect that your pet has hypothermia or frostbite, keep them warm and dry and contact your vet immediately. Your pet’s chances of contracting these conditions are increased when they’re both cold and wet, so always dry them thoroughly and provide a warm bedding area if they’ve been outside in the rain or snow. 

13. Check under cars

Cats love being warm, so you’ll often find them snuggled up under some blankets or curled up on your lap when it's frosty outside. However, this love of warmth can also lead to dangerous situations, such as your cat getting too close to space heaters and open fires.

Sometimes, cats will hide underneath a car bonnet or on top of a car’s wheels to get closer to the warm engine. Before getting into your car this winter, make sure you check under your car and bang on the bonnet to scare away any pet cats or strays. 

14. Look after outdoor animals

An easy safety tip is to keep your pets inside as much as possible when it’s very cold. But what do you do if you have outdoor pets like guinea pigs, horses or fish in a fishpond?

For small animals kept in outdoor hutches, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, you should ensure that their hutches are protected from rain, wind and snow by placing them in a sheltered area. Add extra bedding and blankets to their hutches for insulation, and consider moving them inside or into your garage if the temperature gets very low.

Horses should always have access to shelter, so make sure they can get into their stables when it's very cold or wet. Give them plenty of dry bedding and provide them with extra feed throughout the winter months.

If you keep fish in a fishpond, check the water every day to make sure it hasn’t frozen over, as poisonous gases can build up underneath the ice. If ice does form, gently melt a hole in it with a saucepan of hot water. You should avoid breaking the ice because this could accidentally harm your fish.

For more security and safety advice this winter, check out the SimpliSafe blog for tips on spotting Christmas scams and our complete Christmas home security checklist.