9 Ways To Keep Pets Safe When It's Freezing Outside, Because Fur Is No Protection Against Winter Winds

Ad failed to load

In many households, beloved pets are truly members of the family. They receive regular veterinary check-ups, snuggles, and even a stocking at Christmas. However, winter is a hazardous time of year for animals, who should always be brought indoors when the weather turns fierce. Here are nine ways to keep pets safe when it's freezing outside — because the elements impact our four-legged pals, too.

Every year, the world experiences more weather extremes, and that includes freezing cold temperatures, blizzards, and hail storms. According to an Animal Humane Society spokesperson in Minnesota, who spoke with Romper, the first rule is simple: if it's too dangerous for you to be outside, it's too dangerous for Fido and Fluffy, too. Ideally, you should bring all pets inside in freezing and sub-freezing temperatures. If there are outdoor animals in your neighborhood, know that they'll need shelter, food, and drinkable (not frozen) water to protect themselves from the freezing winds. And when the thermostat drops below zero, spread the word — it's time to get everyone indoors, stat.

In winter, indoor animals face a lot of the same problems their people do — namely, boredom and weight gain from shorter walks and less time at the dog park. (Here in currently-arctic Colorado Springs, the dog park is basically a yellow ice rink.) Keep your pets healthy and engaged by playing with them each day.

Ad failed to load

1Check The Weather Report


If you wouldn't be safe left to your own devices out of doors, neither will your animals. Cats might act like they can take on the world, but they're really just as vulnerable as we are, explains a spokesperson at the Animal Humane Society in Minnesota in an interview with Romper. If you have outdoor pets and it's too cold for you to feel comfortable, then it's time to rein them in.

"Although they are equipped with fur and feathers, dogs, cats, birds, and other animals can still suffer from frostbite, exposure, and dehydration when water sources freeze," writes Ben Williamson, Senior International Media Director at People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), in an email to Romper. "Backyard dogs" especially suffer from a variety of ailments and stresses during inclement weather.

PETA also urges pet owners to remember that "puppies and kittens, elderly animals, small animals, and dogs with short hair — including pointers, beagles, pit bulls, Rottweilers, and Dobermans — are particularly susceptible to the elements."

2Know Your Dog


For those looking for a hard-and-fast temperature, Jennifer L. Summerfield, DVM CPDT-KA, of Brown Veterinary Service in Wayne, West Virginia, tells Romper in an interview that she advises clients to be wary when the thermostat drops below 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. However, she notes that some breeds are designed for cold and snow, so it's OK to take your cue from the individual dog as well.

"A Siberian husky or Great Pyrenees with the big thick hairy coat, this is what they were bred for," explains Summerfield. "What I tell dog owners is to take their cue from the dog. If your dog seems comfortable, they’re active, and they don’t want to come inside even when you encourage them, they’re probably doing OK. Things that you’d want to watch for that tell you they might get cold is shivering or hunkering down in one place."

According to Summerfield, whose book Train Your Dog Now! comes out in March, dogs may also hold a paw up to you and refuse to move as a way to say, "It's too icy. Let's go inside now."

3Make Sure Your Doghouse Is Winter-Proof


"Outdoor animals need some kind of enclosure or space where they can get away from the cold and the elements," notes the Animal Humane Society. Make sure your doghouse is moisture-proof and wind-proof, and don't leave your dog outside in freezing temperatures, or if you yourself couldn't safely spend time outdoors.

If an animal does spend time outside, they'll need extra food — they burn extra calories to keep warm — and access to drinkable, unfrozen water.

"When you see dogs left outdoors, provide them with proper shelter," explains Williamson of PETA. "Doghouses should be made of wood (metal is a poor insulator) and positioned in a sunny location during cold weather. Raise the house several inches off the ground, and put a flap over the door to keep out cold drafts. Use straw for bedding (rugs and blankets can get wet and freeze)."

Remember, it's really best to bring your outdoor pet inside for a winter staycation as soon as the weather turns. They feel the ice in the air, too.

Ad failed to load

4Monitor Indoor Pets For Comfort


Watch indoor cats and dogs for changes in behavior as winter deepens. They might need more water or entertainment — they might also get chilly on the kitchen floor. Consider putting the kids on modified Paw Patrol — their job is to watch Fluffy and Fido for signs that the weather is getting to them. According to Williamson at PETA, animals that catch a parasite this time of year are robbed of vital nutrients during a vulnerable time, so don't hesitate to see a veterinarian if they seem unwell.

"Because they aren’t getting that outdoor exercise, it's great to do enrichment inside," says the Animal Humane Society. "Games you play with your animal and toys, that goes a long way during these bitterly cold months." You can learn more about environmental enrichment at the Indoor Pet Initiative.

"Once we get into these zero and subzero temperatures, dogs should only be outside for quick potty breaks," explains the Animal Humane Society. If you plan longer walks, take your dog's breed into consideration. "An 80-pound husky is going to tolerate this weather a little better than your 2-pound chihuahua, so you can look at the individual animal, too. But once we get into deep freeze, very short potty breaks only."

5Don't Let Them Roam Free


"In cold weather, cats sometimes climb under the hoods of cars to be near warm engines and are badly injured or killed when the car is started. (To help prevent this, bang loudly on the hood of your car before starting the engine.) Animals can also become disoriented when there is snow or ice on the ground," according to PETA's spokesperson.

This is the stuff of nightmares, and yet another reason to bring the whole family inside until spring.

6Break Out The Christmas Sweaters


While long-haired breeds have slightly more natural protection from the elements, short-haired dogs will benefit from sweaters or coats, according to PETA — and look cute at the same time. Remember: if you're shivering, take brief walks only.

This morning, I saw a puppy and her owner dressed in matching Bridget-Jones style Christmas sweaters. Best. Couple. Ever.

Ad failed to load

7Cat Shelters Are A Thing, Too


If your cat has a habit of slipping outside depsite your best-laid plans, construct a cat shelter or designate another safe, warm place for him.

"A cat shelter is pretty easy to build out of just an old plastic tote with a bit of bedding," explains an Animal Humane Society spokesperson. "Anything that gives them some relief from the elements — a spot in your garage, or in a rural area, a little barn where they can get away from the cold — that’s going to be your best bet."

Below freezing? Give your cat an irresistible spot by the fire and make sure she's there whenever you plan to leave the house.

8Watch Out For What The Cat Drags In


After you bring Fido or Fluffy in from the snow, remember to dust off their legs, feet, and stomach. "Salt and other chemicals can make animals sick if they are ingested while the animals are cleaning themselves," according to PETA. The organization also suggests buying non-toxic antifreeze made with propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol, which can be poisonous to animals even in small doses.

You can also buy pet booties to protect your dog's feet from the ice, salt, and chemicals on the sidewalk, accoding to the Animal Humane Society, or even a vaseline-like product to keep the ice out.

"Regardless of whether you use those products or not, once you’re inside, check their paws to make sure there’s no ice or salt built up in their paw pads — that can really be detrimental later on, so remove that right away," explains the Animal Humane Society.

9Be A Good Samaritan


Many states have laws on the books to protect pets in winter. If you see animals left outside in your neighbor, offer to contribute adequate shelter, like the dog and cat houses described above. If you find an animal in need of help, you can also call PETA at 757-622-7382.

Also keep an eye out for stray cats, advises PETA. "Take unidentified animals inside until you can find their guardians, or take them to an animal shelter. If strays are wild or unapproachable, provide food, water, and shelter (stray cats will appreciate a small dog-house filled with warm bedding), and call your local humane society for assistance in trapping them and getting them indoors."

Sometimes kids speak up for animals even when grown-ups don't. You can listen to your child and set a great example by teaching them how to safely care for strays — a doubly good deed in winter days.

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

6 Early Signs You're Going To Have A Short Labor, According To Experts

As far as I'm concerned, a short labor is right up there with winning the lottery in terms of lucky life events. (And when I was actually in labor, I would absolutely have traded a bucketful of lottery winnings for a speedier birth.) While some women…
By Kelly Mullen-McWilliams

Kids Will Love These TV Shows & Movies Coming To Netflix In March

You can always count on Netflix to keep it fresh: though there are already so many movies and shows to choose from, every month there's an influx of new content to keep your entire family entertained. As February enters its final weeks, it's time to …
By Megan Walsh

Here Are 10 Ways To Boost Your Baby's Immunity To The Flu

As I'm sure you've read in the thousands upon thousands of articles written about it this winter, the flu is spreading like wildfire and it's bad. Really bad. This strand of flu is the worst we've had in a very long time and it's the most widespread,…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Khloé Kardashian Asked Twitter About Her Bump, & Moms Totally Delivered

Like her younger sister Kylie Jenner, Khloé Kardashian managed to keep most of her pregnancy a sort-of secret. But unlike Jenner, Kardashian chose to publicly announce her pregnancy several months before the baby's due date. While there's no wrong wa…
By Sophie Hirsh

21 Moms Share The Most Surprising Part About Having A C-Section

Honestly, I don't think we, as a culture, talk about C-sections nearly enough, especially considering so many mothers experience them. And because of a number of factors, the little we do talk about it always seems to be a familiar narrative: "It's n…
By Jamie Kenney

13 Yummy Instant Pot Recipes To Make Under 30 Minutes

An Instant Pot seems to be the must-have appliance in every kitchen these days. If you are anything like me and never knew the beauty of a Instant Pot, you are about to have your life changed. Basically, you put some ingredients into a pot, set the t…
By Kristin Manna

9 Things The First Six Months Of Motherhood Will Teach You About Your Baby

Personally, the first six months of motherhood was a mixed bag. I learned some harsh lessons about myself that made taking care of my baby seem overwhelming. For example, I was clueless, and no amount of research could help me feel like anything but …
By Steph Montgomery

11 Photos You *Must* Take During The Last Days Of Your Pregnancy

During my first pregnancy, I took a photo each week to document my growing belly. I stopped around 36 weeks, though. I hated how I looked in those pictures, and didn't think I'd want to relive those moments. I was wrong. My second pregnancy was a dum…
By Steph Montgomery

6 Red Flags To Definitely Look Out For After Your Baby Falls

The first time my infant son tried to take a few steps, he tumbled and bumped his head on the coffee table. My blood turned to ice in my veins and I froze. There truly isn't anything quite like the feeling a parent gets when their little one gets hur…
By Sarah Bunton

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack