Winter Safety Tips for Animals

Winter Time

Winter Time

During the winter time it is advised that you take additional care to make sure that your companion animals are safe and warm. Winter is dreaded by humans, but winter is much harder for animals that rely on us to make sure they have everything that they need. Obviously your dog or cat will be happiest indoors, snug in their favorite cover or bed rather than outside where it can get chilly over night. It is not rare to find dogs that are left outside without proper shelter.

Dogs that have been outside in the cold weather for sometime without proper care may be seen trying to lick a frozen water bowl in hopes of getting water. Some stainless steel bowls also run the risk of a pet’s tongue freezing to the bowl. Plastic heated bowls would be the ideal solution for winter time if your animals have to be outdoors for any amount of time.


If you happen to see a dog that is not being taken care of properly or is neglected during winter time, call the animal control in your area and leave a message. Always document what you see including the data, time, animal, and the circumstances of the neglect. Anything you can report about the residence, the animal, or the owner is vital information needed to fully investigate them. Take several pictures if the circumstance warrants it and if the laws in your town allows it.

For outside cats you can provide warm shelter in winter by turning an old 35 or 55 gallon tote into a shelter with bedding and food/water if it is big enough. You can find or build custom made cat shelters for the outside. Follow this link for more on making an outside cat shelter. For dogs you want to provide a well insulated dog house if the dog has to be outside for any duration of time.

All shelters are ideally lifted a few inches off the ground to avoid drafts and covered with cedar shavings if straw is not an option. To avoid cold wind getting into the dog house you can try heavy plastic or burlap that is waterproof for the doorway. Do not use a cover as covers can freeze.

Frost bite, hypothermia, and frozen water bowls are a few specific problems that is often seen in the winter time which can be easily prevented. When the weather  hits very frigid temperatures, especially when it hits below 0 degrees, you need to start thinking about more ways to keep your pets warm.

You should also take precautions so that the products you use during winter time is safe such as using a rock salt that is not toxic to animals. And remember if you walk your dog every day that your pet may happen to step on rock salt that is not pet safe so keep a paper towel or hand towel handy in case your pet steps in some.

For anti-freeze it is expected that you will keep it contained in a safe place. However, we know that leaks can happen and that you want to be prepared in case it does. You will want to clean up anti-freeze leaks immediately. Anti-freeze can cause liver failure in very small doses. Better yet we recommend using an anti-freeze brand that is animal safe. Animal safe anti-freeze is not only safer but it is made in a way that makes it less enticing and palatable. Look for a brand that contains propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol.

If your pet does ingest anti-freeze you will want to induce it by using charcoal or by inducing vomiting if it was caught fast enough. Vomiting is usually only recommended when your pet is not showing symptoms yet as when they start showing symptoms it is too late. You induce vomiting by giving your pet 3% hydrogen peroxide given at a rate of 5 ml or 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of weight. Do be somewhat careful however since inducing vomiting on gasoline or cleaning chemicals can do more damage coming up to the esophagus. When in doubt call your veterinarian or the poison control center.

If you discover a hypothermic animal we suggest always warming up the animal slowly as warming up an animal too fast can lead to shock. You can do this by using warm water bottles placed against the arm pits of the animal, warm towels, blow dryers, or a warm bath. Always use warmed up plastic bottles, not hot, as this can lead to burns on the animal.


If you are taking the animal to a veterinarian you do not want to get their entire body wet because this could escalate matters once they hit cold air so you would go with the towel method or the bottle method. Do remember that if the hypothermia is really bad, a veterinarian may be necessary for intravenous fluids.

Finally know that some critters will get into the hood of your car in an effort to stay warm. To avoid accidentally injuring your own animals or other wild life we recommend that you honk the horn and beat on the hood once to shoo away any visitors. It is not rare to see young animals attempting to hide within a car engine to keep warm.

Consider these tips:

  • Use plastic heated water bowls in winter time for outside.
  • Have a dog house when dogs are outside for any duration of time.
  • Report abuse or neglected dogs that have inadequate water or shelter.
  • Install a light bulb in a dog house to provide good heat.
  • Pound on the hood of your cat prior to driving.
  • Provide a wind resistant shelter that is a few inches off the ground.
  • For cats, you can offer insulated totes for shelter.
  • Use pet-safe salt for ice to avoid harming your pet.
  • Make sure pets do not lick anti-freeze as it is toxic.

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