On the twelfth day of Christmas

Dreaming of a white Christmas? Snow and cold weather challenges for pets

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Winter can be beautiful, and many pets enjoy the crisp, cold air and frolicking in the snow. Yet, there are a few things worth keeping in mind to make sure our furry friends can enjoy the season to its fullest.

Some of these are related to things we do to help us cope with the cold, but can pose a danger to our pets. Good examples are things like antifreeze and road grit. Snow and freezing weather bring their own issues, like slippery surfaces and road traffic accidents. And the amazing variety of body types for dogs and cats means that some are much better adapted to the cold than others.

Why can pets struggle with the snow and cold weather?

  • Small, young, old and sparsely-coated pets will have a harder time coping with low temperatures and chilly winds
  • Wet or snow-covered paws or belly really bring on the cold, and can even lead to frostbite in extreme cases
  • Road grit can be irritant to the skin of the paws, and even the mouth and stomach if they try to groom it off
  • Snow can hide tripping hazards or sharp objects
  • Bad weather and short days can make it easier for adventurous dogs to get lost, and they can also wander into a dangerous area where they can slip, fall and injure themselves
  • Antifreeze is highly toxic, and even small spills can be dangerous. Many dogs and cats sadly enjoy the taste of antifreeze. Some types of de-icer can be toxic too, always check the warning signs and instructions on the package
  • Remember cats will sometimes climb under the bonnet of cars to seek warmth
  • Cold weather can really bother a pet with arthritis. Keep an eye out for signs of pain or stiffness, and consider discussing treatment adjustments with your vet if symptoms are not well controlled

How to enjoy the cold weather safely

  • A cosy coat or jumper will make many pets happy AND look great on the Christmas pictures
  • Always clean and dry the paws and belly, as well as any other areas needing it, after being outside. Trimming the hair between the pads may help with this.
  • Once used to it, many dogs will happily use doggy boots during winter walks
  • It’s usually best to keep dogs on the lead. This is especially true near roads, remember that cars will take longer to stop in an emergency
  • Keep antifreeze and de-icer in a safe place and clean any spills immediately
  • It’s a good idea to knock on the bonnet a few times before starting the car to avoid any accidents
  • Even the most outdoorsy cat may prefer to stay indoors during some winter days. They may appreciate the option of using a litter tray indoors. It might also be worth encouraging cats to stay inside during winter nights.

You can find more information in our winter hazards article.

What to do if there is a problem

  • If your pet is shivering or seems unhappy outside, take them inside and try to provide a warm area for them to rest in and warm up.
  • If their paws are bothering them, rinse them thoroughly with tepid warm water. Contact a vet if there is swelling or the skin looks bright red. 
  • Bleeding may be temporarily reduced if a wound is very cold, monitor any wounds very carefully or get them checked by a vet, as bleeding may start when the limb warms up.
  • Seek an emergency vet immediately if you suspect your pet may have ingested antifreeze 

Joii vets and nurses are there to help you if you have any questions. And we’re available online 24/7 every day, even over the festive period.

What not to do if there is a problem

You can’t help your pet if you get hurt as well. In case of suspected injury, try to assess the situation and call for help. Having the local emergency services and RSPCA/SSPCA contacts on your phone may be life-saving.

What can be normal during cold weather?

Do not force a pet to be outside in the cold if they appear uncomfortable or distressed by it. A little shivering can be normal initially, but if your pet is not moving around they will only get colder. You can try again when the weather improves a little, or perhaps get them a warm jumper and boots. 

A Samoyed or Malamute will probably laugh at all these concerns and have the time of their life!

Wishing you a happy and stress-free Christmas from all your pet family friends at Joii.

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