Caring for Our Dogs in Cold Weather

There is a common misperception that since dogs have fur, they can tolerate the cold. That’s just not the case. Dogs can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite just like we can. We have to take good care of our dogs in cold weather. All domesticated animals should be kept indoors during cold days.

dogs in cold weather

Winter is beautiful but the extremely cold temperatures are dangerous for our pets. Image credit: Larisa-K

Caring for Our Dogs in Cold Weather

If you regularly walk your dog you know what your dog can tolerate in warm weather. So be sure to take into consideration the cold temperatures when taking your dog outdoors. Short dogs have the disadvantage of being so close to the ground that their bellies can get wet from the snow, so they will get cold faster. Older dogs with arthritis or dogs with serious medical conditions should either go on very short walks or be kept inside other than taking potty breaks.

dogs in cold weather

Walks are fun but don’t let your dog get too cold. Image credit Pezibear

The American Veterinary Medical Foundation advises shortening walks with your dog on cold days. They also state that “no pet should be left outside for long periods of time in below-freezing weather.” Sadly, some people leave their dogs outside in the frigid weather and most of these dogs tragically die.


dogs in cold weather

Getting your dog a coat will help keep his body warm during a walk. Image credit: Jyerk


To help your dog in cold weather, it’s a good idea to get your dog a coat. Some people who have small dogs dress them up in cute outfits and coats. This is a good thing in cold weather as many smaller dogs’ fur is short or thin. The advantage of having a small dog is that most of them will fit inside a tote or large purse. These lucky little pups’ feet never touch the ground.

dogs in cold weather

Dogs can get stir crazy staying inside during the winter. The phrase “go outside” will always get a response. Image credit: YamaBSM

Dogs get stir crazy in the winter. My poor lab always wants to go for a walk or romp in the yard. Unfortunately, when it’s below zero with wind chills in the negative numbers, our trips outside are short. When you do take your dog outside try to avoid rock salt. Rock salt and other ice melt products can hurt your dogs’ feet. Spilled antifreeze is toxic so you don’t want it on your dog’s feet.


It’s best to get boots for your dog. If your dog is like mine, it may refuse to wear boots on the snow and ice. If your dog won’t wear the boots, you can wash their foot pads with soap and water after a walk or a romp in the yard. To heal any abrasions on their pads, soak the pets’ feet in a mix of one cup of Epsom salt to one gallon of water. It’s best to soak their feet around ten minutes if you can get them to keep still that long. Even five minutes in the solution will help.

dogs in cold weather

Making your own balm for your dog’s feet is beneficial because you know what ingredients are in it. Image credit: ljalbert

There are all kinds of balm available for our dogs’ feet. Petroleum jelly can also be used on dry or scratched foot pads. There are ways to make your own paw balm with beeswax, shea butter, and oils. The important thing to remember is whatever you put on your dog’s foot pads can be licked off. You don’t want them ingesting something that could make them sick.

dogs in cold weather

Most dogs love to play in the snow. When they come inside be sure to dry them off well. Image credit: wildehilde


When your dog comes inside after playing in the snow, dry them off so they will warm up faster. Also, check their feet and underbelly for snowballs. Long haired dogs will gather snowballs on their belly and legs. I learned this the hard way with my first dog, Benji, who was a cock-a-poo. His long hair gathered so many snowballs that I usually used a blow dryer to get them off and dry his fur.

The ASPCA recommends giving your pet a little more to eat during the winter months. Body fat also plays a part in helping a pets’ tolerance for the cold. They also recommend not bathing your pet in cold weather. I like to use Burt’s Bees Waterless Shampoo for dogs. I use it on my black lab and it makes her coat soft and shiny.


It is important to protect our dogs in cold weather. They are family members much like our children. We have to watch over them like children. Watch out for things like spilled chemicals, ice melt products, and abrasions on their foot pads.  When they are wet and cold they can go into hypothermia. We want them to have fun in the snow but be warm and dry inside too. Our dogs give us so much unconditional love. The least we can do is to return that love with care and protection.


  1. When the weather is frigid, our Winston wants no part of a long walk. He does his business and heads straight back for the house! We just got him a new quilted coat and he loves it!

  2. Thank you so much for spreading awareness about this! Doggies are not immune to cold! Their poor paws take the brunt of the problems so I love that you talked about paw balm!

    • Thanks Joely, my girls are inside 99 percent of the time so they don’t stay outside long when its cold. There have been several stories told lately about animals left out in the freezing weather in the KC area. It makes me sick.

  3. It is such a big thing making sure you look after your dogs in cold weather a good wax for the paws to stop them sticking is a must, I mean we wouldn’t want to walk outside bare foot.

  4. Great post!! My pup loves the snow! She loves running and eating it. She tries to stay out for hours but eventually snowballs form in her pads and she can’t stand. I love the idea of a foot balm! I can’t wait to try it!

  5. I have heard a lot about dogs being uncomfortable in the snow, with snow building up on their paws, and all the salt / chemicals that end up on pavement / sidewalks etc. It would definitely be helpful if dogs are willing to wear little boots!

    • I have some boots that I bought for my border collie. Sadly she is gone but I still have the boots. My lab’s feet are too big for the boots and my greyhound is too squirrely to wear them.

  6. This is such important info. My dog loved the snow but I was careful about how much time she was outside. The next door neighbour used to leave their dog chained up no matter the weather. It was so sad. (And yes I had to talk to them and then report them).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *