What You Need to Know About Cold Weather Pet Safety


With frigid temperatures rapidly approaching, it’s important to know exactly how to care for your pet when it gets cold outside. Fortunately, we’ve got the answers to all of your temperature-related pet concerns right here.

How Long Can Dogs Be Left Outside in the Winter?

There are many factors that determine how long a dog can comfortably stay outdoors in cold weather, including: coat type, coat color, size, weight, conditioning, age, and health.

To make matters more confusing, all 30-degree days are not created equally! Wind chill, cloud cover, dampness, and the amount of activity your pet is getting can all impact how he perceives the outdoor temperature.

Generally speaking, dogs don’t begin to feel uncomfortable until temperatures drop below 45-degrees and even then, some dogs don’t mind the cooler weather. However, when temperatures fall below freezing or 32-degrees, short-haired, older, younger, and sick dogs should be watched closely.

At 20-degrees or below, all dogs risk discomfort, hypothermia, and frostbite.

What Should I Do If I Have an “Outdoor” Pet?

The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that while pets vary on how much cold they can tolerate, no pet should be left outdoors for long periods of time in very cold weather. At a minimum, you should offer your pet shelter if you do leave it outside periodically in cold weather.

The shelter should be warm and dry, offering protection against the wind. It should have access to fresh (not frozen) drinking water, and the floor of the shelter should be off the ground to minimize heat loss. Make sure your shelter also includes thick, dry, comfortable bedding. Avoid using a heat lamp or space heater in the shelter—they can cause burns and fires.

What Should I Do If a Neighbor Leaves Their Pet Outdoors Overnight?

The Humane Society recommends that in cases such as these, you politely let the pet owner know you’re concerned.

Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the risks their pets face when left outdoors in cold temperatures. If your neighbor responds poorly or fails to heed your advice, please place a call to your local animal control agency.

What Do I Need to Know About Walking My Dog in the Winter?

We have a few guidelines for winter walking with your dog:

  • Use a Leash. More pets get lost at this time of year than any other, because snow can easily cover the odors that help pets find their way home.
  • Wipe their Paws. Salt, antifreeze, and de-icers contain toxic chemicals. Rather than allowing a chemical cesspool to linger on your pet’s paws, wipe them down immediately after walks before your dog has a chance to lick them.
  • Dress in Reflective Gear. Since it gets dark much earlier in the winter, keep your dog close by when you’re walking outdoors. It’s also a good idea to outfit both yourself and your pup in reflective gear. Many people use glow sticks attached to their dog’s collar, or something reflective on their sweater or jacket.
  • Just Do It! It’s boring when you’re cooped up inside all winter due to the cold weather. Your dog may not actually be bored, per se, but he’d probably appreciate getting some regular activity. Try to continue with walks when the weather permits, and play indoors when it doesn’t. That will keep your dog at his happiest and healthiest!

And speaking of healthy pets, are your animals due for a checkup? If so, you can schedule your appointment at our Columbus office by calling 614.268.8666 during normal business hours. For your convenience, we’re open until 6:30 Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; 7:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays; and 3:30 on Saturdays.