It is that time of year again- time to put up holiday decorations, drink some hot chocolate, and prepare for snowstorms! During all the celebration and cheer, it is important to keep in mind the safety of your dog in this cold weather. Here are some quick tips to keep in mind while we head into this winter season.


Know when to keep your dog indoors!


Many dogs look forward to their daily walk, but it is important to know when it is too cold for prolonged exposure. Even dogs that live most of their life outdoors can be unsafe in certain conditions. Knowing when it is too cold for your dog is important to prevent frostbite and hypothermia, a potentially life-threatening condition. Contact your veterinarian to discuss ideal temperatures in your area that are considered safe for your pet to be outside. Really young (puppies) or older dogs also have more trouble keeping themselves warm.


Bundle Up!

When we must make the trip outside in cold weather, we usually put on our jacket and our boots to help keep us warm. The same thing can be done for your pup! An appropriately sized jacket and some booties for each foot can help keep your dog comfortable. Remember to keep an eye on your dog’s paw pads since they can get dry, crack, and cause bleeding.


Watch your dog for signs of cold intolerance!

Even when we minimize cold weather exposure for our dogs, it is important to watch for the following signs that your dog can give you that they are not tolerating the cold very well:

  • Shivering
  • Lifting paws off the ground
  • Tucked tail or hunched posture
  • Vocalizing (whining or barking)


If you notice any of these signs, it is important to move our dog inside to a warm and dry area as soon as possible.

Know when to take your dog to the veterinarian!

If you notice any of the signs below, this is an EMERGENCY, and you should take your dog to the veterinarian IMMEDIATELY:

  • Loss of consciousness/coma
  • Pale gums
  • Shallow or difficult breathing
  • Muscle stiffness and/or unable to walk or stand


Knowing how to prevent frostbite and hypothermia in your dog is the best way to keep them safe this chilly season. However, if you are concerned about any of the above signs, fast treatment is the best way for your dog to make a quick recovery.


Written by:

Alex Miller, Pet Poison Helpline DVM student extern, Iowa State University, Class of 2024