Cold-Weather Tips for Pets

posted on Thursday, January 16, 2020 in News

With severe winter weather in our forecast, here are some tips from the Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARL) to keep your pets—and the pets in your community—safe in these cold temperatures.

To report an animal in distress, call your local animal services agency or law enforcement. City of Des Moines residents can call (515) 283-4811.
  1. Keep indoor cats inside. Cats can get lost in wintery weather and become injured or worse. If there are cats outdoors, provide them with a warm place to sleep, access to unfrozen water, and food.
  2. Dogs that are let off-leash during the winter, especially during a snowstorm, have a higher chance of becoming lost. Make sure your dogs are wearing ID tags and have been microchipped to increase the chances of being reunited with you if they become lost.
  3. Check twice before starting your car. Outdoor cats often climb under the hoods of cars to keep warm. When the motor starts, the cat may be injured or killed by the fan belt. Knock or bang loudly on the hood of your car before starting it to give cats a chance to escape.
  4. Never leave your cat or dog in a vehicle in cold weather. The vehicle acts as a refrigerator, keeping the cold in and causing the animal to freeze.
  5. Antifreeze may be good for your car but it is lethal for dogs and cats. Clean up any spills thoroughly and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.
  6. Towel dry your dogs' paws, legs and stomach when they come in out of winter weather. Chemical agents used to melt ice can be dangerous for dogs to ingest while licking their paws. Snow and encrusted ice may also cause their paw pads to bleed.
  7.  Never shave your dog in the winter. Dogs need their coat to provide warmth. When you give your dog a bath in the winter, be sure they are thoroughly dry before letting them outside. For dogs with shorter coats, consider getting a coat or sweater that covers their body from the base of the tail to the belly. Keep pets’ fur mat-free. Mats do not allow a pet’s coat to keep the animal warm.
  8. Know how much cold your pet can tolerate. Puppies, small dogs and older dogs have a lower tolerance for cold temperatures. Let them outside only to relieve themselves, or you may choose to train him to use potty pads indoors.
  9. If your dogs are built for colder weather and enjoy playing in the cold, increase the amount of food they're given, especially extra protein, to keep them and their fur healthy and in good shape.
  10. Make sure your pet has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from drafts. A warm blanket or pet bed will be much appreciated by your companion! If you have an outside dog, bring them inside during severe cold snaps. If your dog HAS to stay outside, make sure they have adequate shelter and fresh unfrozen water. Your dog’s shelter needs to keep them warm, with dry bedding (straw, not blankets, which can become damp) and protection from the wind. Aging pets, undernourished pets, and pets with medical conditions should not be out in the cold, even with a doghouse.