Cold Weather Tips for Healthy Dogs & Cats

Published on December 13, 2019 by arothstein

Dog in jacket during cold weather

A vet tech ensures that animals have a happy and healthy life, and that includes taking precautions during cold weather. Candidates must pass the VTNE and be licensed or credentialed in the state in which they live and work.

A vet tech performs many of the same duties of a nurse in a medical practice and uses their skills and knowledge to care for animals. A vet tech works under the supervision of a veterinarian. The duties a vet tech may perform are regulated on the state in which they work.

A vet tech is usually the first person a pet owner encounters when they bring their pet to a veterinary practice to be examined. The vet tech may conduct the initial assessment and perform emergency first aid, if necessary.

Some of the most common responsibilities of a vet tech are:

Educating Pet Owners

One of the essential aspects of a vet tech’s job is to educate pet owners on taking care of their pets. Once a vet tech has passed the VTNE and is working in a veterinary practice, the education doesn’t end. It’s vital to keep up with the latest advances in veterinary medicine, animal nutrition, and keeping dogs and cats safe and healthy.

Most pet owners hear a lot about hot weather and ensuring that their cats and dogs don’t get overheated, but a lot of people don’t consider the risks to animals during the coldest months of the year. So, what precisely is essential to know about keeping pets warm during cold weather months?

Keeping Dogs and Cats Warm

Cats and dogs can feel the effects of cold weather as much as humans, especially if they have an ailment like arthritis. Pets may also be more susceptible to illnesses during the cold weather. Pet owners can make simple changes to minimize any discomfort that pets have during the winter. A vet tech can advise pet owners on how the effects of cold weather on their cats and dogs can be kept to a minimum by following some simple tips.

Different Breeds Handle Cold Weather Differently

Every breed has different limits in terms of cold weather. Kittens, puppies, and older dogs and cats have less tolerance for the cold than healthy adult dogs and cats. Pets with short coats are also more susceptible to severe weather conditions. Additional factors to consider are the pet’s activity level and amount of body fat.

Does Your Pet Need a Sweater?

Some pet owners keep the thermostat in their home down lower when they’re away, and their pets may feel chilled if they don’t have a way to stay warm and comfortable. It’s acceptable to keep a coat or sweater on a short-haired dog in the house if they’re susceptible to chills. Some pet owners keep their dog’s coats on while they’re away at work or overnight to ensure their comfort.

The Golden Rule of Cold Weather

A good rule to follow is that if we’re cold wearing our winter clothing, it’s too cold for dogs and cats to be outdoors for longer than a few minutes. Dogs are happy when they can be outside playing and getting exercise. However, when the temperature drops, they should be taken out for bathroom breaks, then kept indoors.

Consider the Wind Chill

Wind chill can be threatening to humans and pets, especially short-haired dogs. If your dog has a short coat, a sweater or coat will keep them protected when they’re outside. Water-resistant booties for pets can keep their feet warm and protect the paw pads. Get your pet accustomed to booties before the cold weather sets in by having them wear the boots in the house for short periods.

Heat Sources That Are Safe for Pets Indoors

A vital tip to keep in mind when you’re choosing sources of heat to keep pets warm is that fireplaces, heating pads, and electric heaters can pose serious risks to pets. Some veterinarians recommend passive heat sources as the most effective way to keep dogs and cats warm indoors during the winter months.

Adjust Your Thermostat for Cold Weather

It’s essential to keep your home warm and comfortable for the human, canine, and feline members of your family, but make sure none of your pets gets overheated. At 75 degrees Fahrenheit, some pets like Persian cats, French Bulldogs, and Pugs can get overheated.

Sleeping Spots

Pet owners should always check their pet’s favorite sleeping spots to make sure their cats and dogs will be comfortable when the temperature drops. If pets sleep on tile, stone, or wood floors instead of a room that’s carpeted, a bed, warm blankets, rugs, or cushions will keep them comfortable.

Heated Pads

Self-heating pads and pet beds take advantage of the pet’s body temperature to keep their favorite sleeping spot warm and snug. Keeping a pet’s bed elevated a few inches from the floor will prevent any chills or drafts.

Outdoor Shelters

Some dog breeds like Chow Chows and Alaskan Malamutes adapt well to cold weather, but even dogs with double coats need protection from the elements. The ideal solution is to keep pets inside during the coldest months. If this isn’t feasible, make sure that outdoor pets have shelters that will keep them warm and dry.


Shelters for cats can be constructed from wood or plastic containers. A large storage container with a lid can have a hole cut into one side like a door. The shelter should be filled with enough straw to keep the cat warm. Straw is the most effective insulating material for outside animals.

Shelter Considerations

If you build a shelter from wood, make it large enough to accommodate three to five cats, as they like to huddle together when it’s cold. An insulated dogloo is an ideal shelter for a dog or cat. Some of these shelters have an entryway with ample interior space to protect the animal from the elements. Straw can be placed on the floor of the shelter to offer extra warmth.

Cold Weather Linens

Blankets or towels shouldn’t be used since they don’t keep an animal warm. Some of these shelters for outdoor dogs are available with a covering for the front door to keep out wind, rain, and snow. The straw makes the best bedding for outdoor pets because it’s resistant to moisture, and it keeps the shelter warm and cozy.

Another way to create a warm shelter for outdoor cats is to modify a doghouse. The house should be at least two feet by three feet and 18 inches high. Cats don’t require a lot of room in an outdoor shelter. They just need sufficient space to stand up or turn around and will huddle together.

Nutrition and Cold Weather

It’s essential to provide cats and dogs with high-quality, nutritious food during the winter. Some pet owners overfeed their pets in the winter which could cause too much weight gain. The excess weight is difficult to get off when the weather turns warm and could cause health problems.

Indoor Pet Considerations

As long as indoor cats and dogs are kept warm enough, they won’t need to consume more food to keep up their energy levels. However, here’s an excellent tip to follow for outdoor pets: Cats and dogs that are outside for most of the time need extra calories to generate sufficient energy and body heat to keep them warm.

Outdoor Pet Considerations

Outdoor pets can be fed canned or dry food. One of the most effective ways to keep a pet’s food and water from freezing outside is to buy insulated, heated feeding bowls. If you use conventional food and water bowls, make sure to feed your cats or dogs at the same time each day. The food will usually be consumed before it has a chance to freeze. Check water bowls frequently to make sure your pets always have access to water.

Outdoor cats will shiver to maintain consistent body temperature. However, shivering takes a lot of energy. Cats should be fed a high-quality food that contains more protein, calories, and fat to provide enough nourishment.

How Exercise Is A Factor

A dog should have some physical activity each day to prevent too much weight gain, stress, or being under-stimulated. Some dogs are ready to get outside and play when it’s cold, and others need some encouragement.

Is it Safe for My Pet to Exercise in Winter?

The amount of exercise a dog can tolerate in the cold weather depends on the dog’s general health, age, and characteristics of the breed. If you have concerns about how much exercise your dog can handle during the winter, discuss it with your veterinarian.

Cold Weather Exercise Considerations for Dogs

Dogs have an adventurous spirit and enjoy changes to their daily routine. If it isn’t too cold and you’re planning a trip to the dog park, take a different route to get there. A change in scenery is mentally stimulating and exciting for your dog.

If you can’t go somewhere different with your dog, you can still make outdoor playtime fun and enjoyable. Buy a few new toys to play with or use some items from inside your home to create a backyard obstacle course, since new activities are fun and exciting for dogs.

Considerations for Cats

Cats like to lounge around, but indoor cats should have physical exercise each day. Toys that mimic birds flying or a laser pointer that mimics an insect moving across the floor will get that kitty up and moving.

Precautions When Traveling with Pets During Cold Weather

The holidays and school breaks are favorite times for families to travel in the winter. If your cat or dog will be going with you, make sure to take the necessary precautions to keep them safe.

The first thing to remember is never to leave your cat or dog in the car unattended. There are too many risks involved in leaving your pet alone. When you’re traveling by car, you’ll have to make frequent pit stops for the humans and pets in your family. When you’re walking your dog in the rest area, make sure they never drink from a gutter or from standing water.

You should always carry fresh, drinking water for your pet and only allow them to drink from their bowl. Bring along enough of their favorite food for the trip. You don’t want to have to feed a different food if you run out. Changing a pet’s diet too quickly can cause digestive upsets.

If your pet is traveling in a crate, make sure that suitcases and other items you pack aren’t too close to the crate. Your pet needs sufficient air circulating around the crate to stay comfortable during the trip. Place a blanket or self-heating pad inside the crate to keep your pet warm enough.

Pet-Friendly Locales

To make the trip more enjoyable for everyone, plan ahead, and find pet-friendly accommodations. A lot of hotels welcome pets, but make sure you understand the hotel’s pet policy. Most cities feature restaurants and cafes that welcome pets. They require your pet to be leashed, but you and your pet will enjoy meeting new pets and their parents in friendly surroundings.

Keep an Emergency Kit Available

During the cold winter months, there’s a risk of severe weather and power outages. Here’s an important tip: you should be prepared in the event of a weather emergency. Make sure you have sufficient food, water, and any medications your cat or dog takes to last for at least five days.

Want to Learn More?

Did learning about cold weather tips for cats and dogs interest you? Ready to start a program to become a veterinary technician? With an associate degree in veterinary technology, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills you need to start an entry-level career as a veterinary technician. Broadview University has been part of the community for more than 40 years, so we’ve developed connections that can help move your career forward. After completing our accredited degree program, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Passing the VTNE allows you to become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), a designation that will give you a competitive advantage when you enter the job market.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a veterinary technician and working in veterinary technology.

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