Winter Hazards for Your Pet

A dog plays in the snow.

Our pets need a lot of TLC when the weather gets cold. When the temperature drops, make sure your pet has all of the necessities for staying warm, dry and comfortable.


Antifreeze is an important fluid to ensure your car's engine doesn't freeze over in the winter. However, it contains a potent chemical called ethylene glycol, which is quickly absorbed into the body's system and leads to high rates of mortality in animals. (Other auto chemicals that contain this dangerous substance include transmission and brake fluids.) Leave all containers containing this chemical bottled up tightly and on a shelf out of reach of your pets. It’s also important to quickly clean up any spills that might occur. Signs of ingestion include vomiting, stumbling and depression. Should your pet accidentally ingest this chemical, call your veterinarian immediately.

Joint Problems

Cold winter weather can cause problems for older pets with joint problems. Pets experiencing joint problems exacerbated by the cold weather will display difficulties in general movement including lying down, getting up and climbing staircases. If your pet shows signs of joint pain, contact your veterinarian and set up an appointment for a checkup. Your veterinarian will provide you with the proper medication to ease your pet’s discomfort.


While pets may enjoy playing in the snow, it’s important to keep them protected from harsh temperatures. To prevent the potential for frostbite, pets need a place to get shelter if they are outside in cold temperatures for any length of time. Signs of hypothermia include a weak pulse, violent shivering, breathing problems and a lack of an appetite. Upon the first signs of hypothermia, wrap your pet in warm blankets and give them warm fluids to drink. A wrapped hot water bottle can also be placed against their abdomen. Check your pet's temperature every 10 minutes. If your pet's internal temperature is under 98 degrees Fahrenheit, contact your veterinarian.


Frostbite occurs when a section of your pet’s skin freezes. If your pet has been out in the cold for a long period, look for these signs of frostbite: pale skin that turns red and puffy; a sensitive tail, ears or paws; and shriveled skin. Should your pet display these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately. If you take your pet for a daily walk through the neighborhood during cold temperatures, consider purchasing a coat or sweater and boots to protect your pet from the potential for frostbite.


For many people there’s no better way to warm a space than with warm, cozy fire. Fireplaces and wood stoves can be potentially dangerous for pets particularly if there is an open flame. Be sure to place a screen in front of any burning fireplaces and keep your pets from getting too close to hot stoves and fireplaces.