Cold Weather and Our Pets

Dog covered in snow

Created: 11/25/2014 Updated: 8/25/2021 - Shelley Audis-Riddell

cats, dogs, health, Health & Wellbeing, joint, kitten, puppy, rabbits, senior, small pet, winter advice

Can you feel the chill in the air? Will you see Jack Frost on your morning dog walk? Are we going to have a White Christmas? Who knows! But something we do know, is that pets can be vulnerable during the colder months, so it is important to consider their health and safety as the winter weather draws near...Brrr!

Dog advice

If your dog is a short-haired breed or feels the cold easily, introduce a dog coat on walks to keep them nice and warm.

Keeping a longer coat will help your dog to keep warm and protected from the cold weather. Regularly groom your dog to brush away the dead fur.

Be careful when letting your dog off the lead in icy or snowy conditions. An excitable and energetic dog could easily injure itself.

More dogs are lost during the dark winter months than at any other time in the year. By law, all dogs should wear a dog identity tag when out of the house. This is so that lost dogs can easily be reunited with their owners. Collars and leads that light up are a great way to keep track of your dog's movements. In addition to this, a recall lead, which can be coupled to your dog's collar, can be very useful.

After walking your dog, thoroughly wipe them down with a towel. It's important to remove any snow or ice, as well as salt or harmful chemicals such as antifreeze, that may be on your dog's coat or paws.

Older dogs may need extra care on those chilly winter days. Cold and damp weather can aggravate arthritis. This can be eased by giving your dog a joint supplement or a joint-support diet

Don't keep your dog in the car for long periods of time. Cars don't retain their heat for very long in winter and can become chilly very quickly!

For dogs that spend long periods of time outdoors, a change to a higher protein diet and an increased feeding rate will help to keep them in tip-top shape during the winter months.

At the end of a wintry day make sure your dog has a comfy warm bed to snuggle down in for the night. Be sure to move their bed away from cold floors and icy drafts.

Young puppies that haven't experienced cold winter weather, may be a little reluctant to take a step outside. Gently encourage your puppy outside with a fun game or treat as a reward for good behaviour.

Border Collie dog in the snow

Cat advice

If your cat likes to rest on the floor, check that the flooring is not too cold and think about any drafts. Consider introducing a comfy bed in a warm place which is raised off the floor.

If your cat suffers with arthritis, the cold weather can make their joints uncomfortable. Feeding a diet with glucosamine, like our Rich in Chicken with Turkey diet , will give your cat additional support for its joints.

Cats like to live in a 3-D environment, but if they suffer with joint issues this can be a challenge. Making sure your cat's environment is at a sensible level can be accomplished by lowering the height of your cat posts and bedding. You can also try introducing a stool or stepping stone to assist your cat to reach a higher resting place.

If your cat enjoys venturing outdoors in the cold months, it may take them a while to adjust to the cold weather. The change in temperature will encourage their coat to grow thicker to help them keep warm in colder weather, but don't leave them outdoors for long periods of time.

Ensure the cat flap is always open for them to come in when they need to. If you don't have a cat flap, make sure your cat is either indoors when you go out, or provide an outside space for them to shelter in.

Some cats like to rest in front of a nice warm fire. Prevent potential burns by discouraging your cat from sleeping too close to the fire and/or introduce a fire guard.

Warm car engines can be a favourite outdoor resting place for some cats. Remember to sound your horn or knock on the bonnet of your car to disturb any sleeping cats before starting the engine.

Ginger cat in the snow

Rabbit advice

Make sure your rabbit's hutch is waterproof and raised off the floor to prevent cold and damp getting in.

Take a look at where your rabbits hutch is placed outdoors. Make sure it is in the best place to offer protection from the weather.

Do you need further advice?

If you need any further advice, please contact the OSCAR Helpline Team on our freephone number 0800 195 8000 or email