Five Cold Weather Myths : Protecting Your Pet This Winter


Like it or not, winter weather has arrived!  You’ve likely turned up the heat, stocked up on firewood and pulled out the boots and sweaters from storage.

But what have you done to prepare your four-legged friends for the chilly weather?  If you think your pet is prepped to protect themselves, think again!

Today we’re dispelling five common myths surrounding your pets and the cold weather.


MYTH ONE: I live in Georgia.  It doesn’t get cold enough down here to be concerned about frostbite or hypothermia in my pet.

TRUTH:  Just like in humans, prolonged exposure to cold weather can cause frostbite and/or hypothermia.  Both can set in when temperatures drop below 32°. 

Frostbite is often difficult to detect because of your pet’s fur.  That’s why prevention is key.  When you finish a walk in either ice or snow, wipe your pet’s paws because ice can get stuck between toes.  Wipe down your pet’s tummy and chest as well. Pay special attention to body parts that are the most exposed and unprotected by fur.  These include a pet’s tail, ear tips, pads of the feet and scrotum.

If your dog is whining, lethargic, shivering, anxious or looking for shelter – these could be signs of hypothermia.  If you suspect your pet is suffering from either condition, consult your veterinarian immediately.  Oftentimes, when a pet is letting you know they need help, they’re already worse off than a human would be.


MYTH TWO: My pet’s fur is enough to protect them in the cold.

TRUTH: Long fur does not make your pet immune to the cold weather. In fact, a wet coat can increase the rate at which body heat is lost.  Short-haired dogs would benefit from a sweater or jacket when outside because they will chill much faster than a dog with a long or thick coat.  A good rule of thumb?  If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet. 


MYTH THREE:  All pets are created equal.  They’re resourceful and survival instincts will keep them safe.

TRUTH:  There may be some truth to this statement, but often times, the help they seek could do more harm than good.  A thirsty pet will lap up just about anything – including antifreeze.  A potential death sentence for a dog!

When it comes to cats, they’re prone to seek warmth and often times find it under the hood of your car.  Make sure to check for any stowaways before starting your car. Banging on the hood of the car a couple of times may be all it takes to protect the stowaway from a tragic injury.

Older and arthritic dogs face additional challenges in the colder months.  It’s important to keep them on a short tether in icy situations and avoid walking on ice all together if possible to avoid a slip or fall that could result in a slipped disk, broken bone or a number of other avoidable injuries.

Ice and snow are not sufficient sources of water, and if you are not able to bring your dog indoors during cold weather, make sure their shelter offers a dry, insulated and secure protection from the cold. Also, make sure there is a flap over the door and that the door is facing away from the wind.  Make sure  there is clean, dry bedding inside such as straw (blankets often get cold and freeze) and monitor the condition regularly as your pet is likely bringing ice or moisture in with them. A wet shelter will actually pull heat from their body rather than conserve it.


MYTH FOUR: Like a bear in hibernation, pets store fat to fuel them through the colder months.

TRUTH: While outdoors, your pet is burning more calories just to stay warm.  For dogs who live primarily outdoors or dogs who are very active while outdoors, you need to up their food intake by 10-15% depending on their activity level.


MYTH FIVE: Most dogs run away during the warm weather months. When it is cold, my pets stay close to home.

TRUTH: Working in animal shelters for several years, I can attest that pets become lost and abandoned regardless of the season.  An added concern is that ice and snow can mask telltale scents and landmarks that may help your pet find their way home like they normally would.  Another added danger facing pets on the run this time of year?  They could very easily come across a frozen pond or river and attempt to cross it with potentially tragic consequences.