February 3, 2023 By Dr. Diana Watkins, DVM

Limit Exposure:

  • Short walks, limited outdoor activity.
  • If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet.
  • Provide warm coats with a waterproof/windproof outer shell when going outside, particularly for short coated breeds (some arctic breeds such as huskies are much better at withstanding cold)

Paws / Pads:

  • Put a thin layer of Vaseline on paw pads or a waxy substance called “musher’s secret”
  • In breeds like golden retrievers who have the tufts of fur in the paws, make sure you rinse and dry the paws well when inside so that snow and ice doesn’t get caught in the fur.
  • Use booties if the pet will tolerate them. While the waterproof type work the best, pets tend to like the softer fleece ones, but make sure they have a rubber tread bottom and that you take the off immediately when inside.
  • Rinse any salt off paws before coming inside.


  • When you know extreme cold weather is coming, try to take the dog on long walks or runs leading up to it to get their energy out.


  • Feeding your pet more during cold months can provide needed calories as dogs burn extra energy trying to stay warm.
  • Access to plenty of water to remain hydrated.


  • Take extra care with very old or very young pets as they cannot as easily regulate their body temperature.
  • Make sure dog’s don’t have access to ANY DROPS of ANTIFREEZE in the garage or where a pet would have access as it has a sweet taste dogs love and causes a deadly and irreversible kidney damage when consumed even in small amounts.
  • Don’t leave pets in car. You hear this more in the summer time, but extreme cold is also dangerous.


  • If small dogs don’t want to use the bathroom, go out with them and help create a small area that is sheltered from wind and shoveled of snow.
  • The severe change in barometric pressure as well as high winds from storms can be anxiety provoking in some pets. Make sure you keep them in a quiet warm room and consider calming aids such as calming care, DAP diffuser (dog appeasing pheromone), or mild sedatives in severe cases.

Cats (including feral cats):

If you live near a feral colony of cats, please consider making them a shelter for the extreme cold.

  • Create or purchase a windproof and insulated cat house with two entrances that is sheltered away from strong winds and snow drifts. Fill it with straw that is changed right before storm. Do not put electric heaters inside, nor any towels or blankets as they can get wet and freeze. Make sure they have access to fresh unfrozen water (recheck freezing status frequently and change as needed)
  • Account for any indoor outdoor cats before upcoming storms and keep inside if possible.


  • While rabbits really should be kept inside all year round, it is particularly important to bring them in when temperatures are below 15 degrees.
  •  If they are in a hutch outside always keep them safe and protected from winds, make sure straw bedding is thick, clean, and dry, and check water sources frequently to make sure not frozen.
  • Provide plenty of food as it requires a lot of energy to keep warm in the cold.


  • Keep in a wind safe area. Avoid big drafts/gusts but keep ventilation open at top.
  • Heat water or change out frequently.
  • Put Vaseline on the comb.
  • Don’t put a heater in the coop
  • Make sure bedding is dry and thick straw

Other Tips:

  • Before first turning on car, bang on hood or honk horn as animals love to crawl up near the warm engine to get out of the cold.
  • To give wild birds and extra boost before storms, make sure feeders are well stocked and if you have a water source replenish.


  • Normal temperatures in dogs and cats and hypothermia symptoms. Normal body temperatures for dogs and cats are around 100.5-102.0. When their body temperature gets below 98.0 they exhibit symptoms of hypothermia which rage from shivering, to confusion, to coma.
  • If you worry your pet has hypothermia, bring them into a warm dry place and provide many thick blankets for them. In moderate to severe hypothermia, you may also need an active rewarming technique such as warming blanket or pad, however make sure they are able to get away from the heat source if they want to in order to avoid burns. Bring into veterinarian as soon as possible but keep warming during transit until rectal temperature is above 98.5.