Is Your Dog Ready for Winter?

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on August 11, 2022
3 min read

When the temperatures drop, dogs need special care to stay healthy, safe, and warm. Whether your pup spends lots of time outdoors or goes out for a couple of quick walks, they need your help to avoid cold-weather health hazards. Keep a few basic tips in mind this winter.

Watch out on walks: Snow and ice can take a toll on your dog’s paws. If they suddenly starts limping during a walk, check for ice between their toes, and soothe cracked or red paw pads with a little petroleum jelly. You can buy booties to protect pets’ paws from the cold and ice, but be sure that they fit well and that they don’t keep your dog from enjoying their time outdoors.

Grab a sweater: Dogs with thick fur probably don’t need an extra layer when they head outside, but smaller breeds and those with short coats may be happier in a cozy sweater or coat.

Don’t leave pets in the car: Just as your vehicle traps heat in the summer, it can stay cold on a winter day, making it feel like a refrigerator for your pup. Dogs left in a cold car for too long can freeze to death.

Make your house the dog’s house: If your dog spends most of their time outside, you need to be careful when winter sets in, even if they have a doghouse. The best way to keep your pooch safe is to keep them inside with you. But if you must keep them outdoors, make sure they have a doghouse that’s dry, free of drafts, with a floor that’s off the ground, and a doorway covered with a flap to keep out wind and rain. But even with all that, bring them indoors when the temps fall below freezing.

Keep chemicals away: Your car’s antifreeze tastes sweet to pets, but it can be deadly if they swallow it. So clean up any spills right away and keep containers of the chemical out of pets’ reach. Ice melt and salt can dry out the pads on your dog’s paws, which makes them more likely to get cracked and irritated. Wipe their paws clean after every walk.

Give extra helpings: If your dog spends a lot of time exercising outside in the cold, they’ll burn more calories and may need a little extra food to help them refuel. Ask your vet if you should add a little more to their bowl in the colder months. It may help to give them several small meals throughout the day instead of one large one.

Take care of sensitive skin: Just like your skin, your dog’s skin gets drier, itchier, and flakier in the winter. Don’t bathe them as often as you do in the summer -- that strips away their coat’s natural oils. When you do get them into the tub, use a moisturizing shampoo.

Recheck their collar, tag, and chip: It’s easier for dogs to get lost in the winter than at other times of the year. If they get away from you, piles of snow and ice can cover up the familiar scents they would normally use to find their way back home. So make sure their collar is secure, their tag information is up to date and, if they have a microchip, make sure the registration for that is current.