Oh, The Weather Outside is Frightful…  So why is Fido or Mittens out there?  We tend to overlook cold weather’s impacts on our furry friends because we think all that fur will protect them.

So, part 3 of our blog series on the “5 P’s of Cold Weather Safety” focuses on pets.

Protect Pets:

Not all breeds of dogs or cats have the same physiology as their wild counterparts; wolves, bobcats or mountain lions.  Even if they were, there are certain winter weather conditions that they need to be protected from.

Pets are no different than their owners and become acclimated to their local climate.  So, if the temperatures are going to be “well below normal,” your cat or dog will also be affected by the cold weather.   For example, a Siberian Husky raised and living in Florida, will flinch at freezing temperatures, since their body adapted to their environment. The Husky would not grow the same thick undercoat that they would in more northern locations.

If temperatures are forecast to fall below freezing, you need to ensure that your pet has access to liquid water for hydration.  Their bowl will freeze over just like a pond or lake will, making it inaccessible for drinking.  Check your pet’s water supply regularly to ensure it hasn’t turned into an ice cube.

Learn More: Humane Society – 5 Ways to Protect Pets this Winter

While their fur provides some protection, pets are also susceptible to wind chill, especially on their noses, ears, lips, paws and other uncovered extremities.  Shelter from the wind is essential to prevent frostbite or hypothermia in your pet.

We tend to forget that pet’s paws are subject to trauma just like our bare feet would be.  Frozen surfaces can be hard and sharp.  Many of the pavement treatments such as road salt or chemical de-icers can also be toxic or irritating to paws and skin.  So, unless you want to put booties on your dog or cat like your would on your own feet, limit the amount of time your pet needs to walk on frozen surfaces.

Learn More: American Veterinary Medical Association

Too often we see videos of heroic rescues of animals who have fallen through thin ice.  If area water bodies have not frozen over, your furry friend may unknowingly venture into an extremely dangerous situation.  Keep them leashed or contained to prevent drowning in a situation they cannot safely ascertain themselves.

Even if your pet is lucky enough to spend most of the winter indoors, they can be affected by a different set of conditions.  Most home heating systems significantly dehumidify the air in your home, which can also result in skin irritation, dry/flaky skin, and dehydration of your pet inside.  The ASPCA offers several tips for skin care of your pet during these conditions.

Learn More: ASPCA Cold Weather Safety Tips

Simply: If it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet.


  1. Plan ahead with temperature, the wind, and wind chill forecasts from your favorite WeatherSTEM site.
  2. Set up Personalized Notifications with your WeatherSTEM account (Get a login, it’s FREE!) to alert you on your preferred device when temperatures or wind chill values reach desired trigger levels. Learn: App Personalization
  3. Download the WeatherSTEM app to look up current conditions at your favorite WeatherSTEM site. Note that WeatherSTEM automatically calculates Wind Chill for you on our station websites and in the mobile app.
  4. Watch more Lessons in our Learn library about cold weather science and safety.

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