BRR!! It’s Cold Outside — Tips to Keep Your Pets Safe


Despite off and on mild temperatures, the current cold spell remind us that it is winter and we can expect more seasonal conditions for several more months.  During the winter months, the number of calls received by the Pennsylvania SPCA’s Humane Law Enforcement Department concerning animals being left outside spikes.  While state law does not require animals to be brought inside,  it does require that they have proper shelter, food and water at all times.

“Despite their fur coats, dogs and cats are susceptible to cold temperatures just like people,” said Lisa Germanis, a  lead  veterinarian at the Pennsylvania SPCA. “While dogs and some cats may like to spend time outside in all kinds of weather, we strongly recommend that pets spend no longer than 30 minutes to an hour outside during extreme temperatures, especially at night.”

The Pennsylvania SPCA offers these cold weather tips:

  • During walks outside, coats and booties can help your dog stay warm. In particular, short-haired or elderly dogs benefit from wearing a coat or sweater.
  • Take extra caution with sick or older dogs, since they are more sensitive to cold weather. For any dog sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.
  • Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If necessary, paper train your puppy inside if he appears to be sensitive to the weather.
  • During deep snows, shovel out a potty spot for your dog.
  • After walks, wipe snow and ice off your dog’s feet, legs and belly. Little ice cubes can form in the sensitive spaces between the toes and toe-pads. Remove the ice carefully with your fingers since it may cling to the hairs between the paws. Wiping off your dog will remove any salt, antifreeze or other harmful chemicals that she could ingest them when licking her paws. Rock salt and other types of snow-melt can irritate the foot pads and cause vomiting and diarrhea when licked.
  • Many de-icing and ice-melting products are toxic. Read the labels of any projects you use, and store these products in tight containers so pets can’t get into them.
  • Even brief exposure to sub-zero temperatures can lead to frostbite of the feet, nose or ears. Frost-bitten skin appears red, gray or whitish and may peel off. If you suspect frostbite, move your pet to a warm place and thaw out frostbitten areas slowly by applying warm, moist towels.  Do not use hot water. Contact a veterinarian for further care.
  • Do not be tempted to let dogs off leash in snow or ice. Canines often lose their scent in cold weather and can become lost. Dogs also can panic in snow storms and run away. More dogs are reported lost during the winter than any other season, so always keep dogs on leash or in a fully fenced yard. Make sure your pet is microchipped and always wears proper identification.