Pet care in cold weather

Follow our tips for keeping pets safe and happy in cold weather and ensure winter passes without a hitch.


The short days, long nights and cold, icy weather can make winter a real struggle. Whether you love getting outside on a crisp winter’s day or you just feel like you want to hibernate, your pets still need plenty of care and attention.

Read on for our tips to help you look after your pet during the winter months.

Check your pet’s paws

With icy weather comes the salt and grit that’s sprinkled onto paths and roads to keep them clear. This can be toxic to dogs and cats, so you should wash their paws after they’ve been outside. Make sure you clean in between their toes too, to ensure there is no grit or salt left there.

Another reason you should check between your pet’s toes is for little balls of ice that might form there after walking in the snow. Snow can clump onto the hair, making it very painful for your pet.

Keep your pet warm and dry

If your pet has been outside and got wet, make sure you dry them off when they come back in. Make sure their bed is cosy and away from any draughts while they’re still damp. 

Don’t leave a pet in a car in cold weather. While a car can become dangerously hot in summer, the temperature inside can drop just as easily on a cold day.

You should also keep your dog away from frozen lakes or rivers. It’s impossible to know how thick the ice is, and they may fall through if they try to walk on it. Keep your dog on a lead if you feel it might head for the ice. 

Watch out for winter hazards

Winter brings risks besides slippery ice and freezing temperatures. We’ve already mentioned the salt and grit used to keep the roads and paths clear of ice, which can be poisonous to pets.

Another toxic winter hazard is antifreeze. Along with de-icer, these two winter staples are highly dangerous for pets. Antifreeze has a sweet taste that cats particularly enjoy, so be sure to keep these items well away from pets.

Festive plants such as poinsettia, holly and ivy are all toxic to pets. If you like to have these plants in your home but can’t guarantee they’ll be out of your pets’ reach, consider getting some artificial ones instead.

Festive food causes a similar issue to pets in that much of what we humans love is harmful to our furry friends. Alcohol and chocolate are perfect examples of this. Stick to pet-friendly treats and be sure that your pet isn’t overeating – even if you are!


Taking care of small pets

Dogs and cats aren’t the only pets people have. With that in mind, we have some quick tips for general animal care in colder weather:

  1. Pets that usually live outdoors (in a hutch, for example) should ideally be brought indoors or into a sheltered area at least. This includes animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets.
  2. Outdoor animals will also benefit from some extra insulation around their hutch. A blanket or tarpaulin will add an extra layer.
  3. Ensure your pet’s drinking water isn’t frozen. Wrap their water bottle in bubble wrap or float a tennis ball in the water bowl to stop it freezing over.
  4. Smaller animals will appreciate some extra bedding. This applies both to animals that live in a hutch and animals that live in a cage indoors.
  5. Keep small animals out of any draughts. Hamsters, mice and gerbils can catch a chill very easily.

Commonly asked questions

What should a dog’s temperature be?

A temperature of 38°C/100.5°F to 39°C/102°F degrees is normal. You should contact your vet if your pet’s temperature falls below 37°C/99°F or rises above 39.5°C/103°F.

Your pet is at risk of hypothermia if their body temperature drops too low, which is very dangerous.

When is it too cold to walk your dog?

Dogs need regular walks and the weather outside makes no difference. Small dogs and fine- or short-haired breeds such as Staffies, Dobermans and Greyhounds would benefit from wearing a coat if it’s cold, as would older dogs and those recovering from an illness or injury.

If the temperature is regularly at or below freezing, most dogs will need a coat. The only exceptions are long-haired breeds that come from areas with a colder climate.

If your dog or cat is reluctant to go outside when it’s cold, however, you shouldn’t force them. Try to give them a bit of exercise by playing with them in the house.

Give your cat or dog the cover they deserve