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Pet Winter Safety: Prepping Your Pet for Winter Weather

When the weather outside is frightful, these winter pet tips can keep your precious pets snug, safe, and warm.

Dogs in Cold Weather: Encouraging Potty Breaks

When the snow is deep and the temps plunge, no one wants to go potty outdoors. So how can you encourage your four-legged friend to go outside when the need strikes? WebMD pet message board members and others in the know offer these quick tips:

  • Shovel it. Keep a small area in the yard shoveled clear of snow; or at least be sure the snow is only an inch or two deep. Then encourage your pet to use this spot. It helps if you shovel a path to this snow-free area. 
  • Buy booties. If your dog is bothered by the snow or ice touching its feet, snow boots donned just before the potty break may make the outdoor journey -- and walking your pet in cold weather -- much easier. A bonus: Pet booties should help the house stay cleaner, too. 
  • Stay close. When it's really cold out, members suggest waiting by the door while your pooch uses its outdoor potty, then letting him back in as soon as he's done. 
  • Make an indoor potty. When the weather outside is truly frightful and you really don't want to let Fido or Fifi out, you do have indoor options for your pet's toilet needs:
  • Pet pee pads resemble a flat, unfolded diaper and are an especially effective option for small, older, or sick dogs. Most pet supply stores carry a range of pee pad sizes, from toy-dog tiny to extra large.
  • Indoor pee patches consist of small swathes of pseudo grass topping a broad, hollow tray into which urine collects each time a dog goes potty. You can find several inexpensive options with a quick online search.
  • Some smaller dogs can also be litter box-trained; even mature dogs can be taught to use a box inside. Be patient during the process, suggest message board members. Training your pup to use a litter box doesn't happen overnight.

Pet Winter Safety: Know the Signs of Hypothermia and Frostbite

When cats and dogs are exposed to the cold for too long, their body temperature -- which is usually between 101°F and 102.5°F -- can drop fatally. Here's what you need to know as you keep a close eye on your pets in winter.

Hypothermia Symptoms in Dogs and Cats 

  • violent shivering, followed by listlessness
  • weak pulse
  • lethargy
  • muscle stiffness
  • problems breathing
  • lack of appetite
  • rectal temperature below 98°F
  • coma
  • cardiac arrest 

Hypothermia Treatment

Wrap your pet in a warm blanket or coat (you can warm blankets and coats in the dryer for a few minutes).

  • Bring your pet into a warm room.
  • Give your pet a solution of four teaspoons honey or sugar dissolved in warm water to drink. You can also put 1-2 teaspoons of corn syrup on the gums if your pet is too weak to drink. This provides an immediate energy boost.
  • Place warm, towel-wrapped water bottles against your pet's abdomen or at her armpits and chest, then wrap her in a blanket. Do not use hair dryers, heating pads, or electric blankets to warm up a hypothermic pet as this may result in burns or cause surface blood vessels to dilate, which compromises circulation to vital organs.
  • Call your veterinarian immediately.

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