In winter, this puppy snuggles under blankets to keep warm.

How to Keep Your Pet Warm When it’s Cold


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Whether or not they show it, pets are sensitive to colder weather. We know you want yours to stay healthy and cosy, so we’ve put together some tips on how to keep your pet warm during these chillier months. We also answer questions like do pets get sick in winter and how to exercise your dog when it’s toe curlingly cold.

Read more below…

Keep your pet warm with proper shelter 24/7

Wind chill is real and cold snaps can be sudden. So, make sure your pets are always protected via access to safe, warm shelter. When you’re home, when you’re out, and when you’re walking together.

A good outdoor shelter should fit your pets comfortably (within reason – Stevie the Snake can stay in her vivarium). This ensures they warm up quickly with body temperature alone. In the same vein, it should also:

  • be sealed properly to keep heat in while still allowing enough air to breathe
  • have enough warm blankets to further insulate your fur baby
  • be raised well off the ground/floor, especially if you live somewhere that gets really cold

Here are a couple of articles if you’re a dog parent – Can Dogs Sleep Outside and How to Build a Dog Kennel.

NOTE: Pets should be brought inside when temperatures drop below 4 degrees Celsius.

No bare floor where sleeping dogs lie!

Dogs, cats, and other pets might like to lie on cool concrete or tiles in summer, and even in winter out of habit. However, they should never be made to sit or sleep on bare floors on chilly days and nights.

It can lower their overall body temperature and inflame arthritic joints. A single blanket may not be enough to stave off the chill either. To learn more about arthritis in pets, read this ‘How to Safeguard Against Arthritis in Dogs and Cats‘ article.

When figuring out how to keep your pet warm, consider: would you lie there and snooze on it?

In winter, this cat snuggles under blankets on the couch to keep warm.

Keep your pet warm and active

We’re all inclined to stay inside in colder weather, including pets. Yours may naturally hibernate or become less active, like some reptiles, but mammals need to move. Encourage non-hibernating pets to get active by playing food games with them.

For dogs that are food-motivated, you can encourage activity by spreading meals throughout different parts of the house or throwing kibble to have your pet chase it down a hallway.

Mentally stimulating your pet can also be a great way to get them moving, such as with food-dispensing toys and interactive or puzzle toys. This will raise their body temperature and help maintain their metabolism.

Speaking of raising body temp…

Get a heater barrier

Ever melted your slippers resting them on the outside of the heater? Burnt your arm sitting too close? Fall asleep near one, to the sound of sizzling, burning hair, and discovered your head is on fire? We hope not, but pets can make the same mistakes with a heat source.

It’s inviting when you’re very cold, but it can quickly get too much. Knowing how to keep your pet warm is one thing, but protecting them from being too warm is another.

Put barriers in place to keep pets a safe distance from all heaters, whether they’re gas, electric, or firewood-fuelled. And don’t let pets have direct access to electric blankets, as there’s a risk of electrocution if they chew the wires, or they’re wet.

NOTE: Carbon monoxide is a gas you can’t smell, taste, or see, but it can kill. Have a gas heater? Make sure you have at least two vents open (ideally diagonally across from each other, like a window and a door) for fresh air to flow into the space.

Give fewer baths and dry them when wet

Body temperature changes with heated or cold water. Add a coat that retains that, and you can figure out why we’re suggesting you ease up on pet baths in winter. Though not to the point where your fur kid becomes unpleasant to be around!

If your pet has fur that’s wet, best to towel them down. It’s extremely important they’re entirely dry before being exposed to outdoor air.

How to exercise your dog in the winter, like this black dog running in the snow? Choosing the right time to be outside, especially when it's not too cold, is key.

Adjust their diet too, under expert guidance

Warming the body takes extra energy, but some pets do far less when it’s colder and/or in winter. Consult your vet about adjusting your pet’s diet over colder months to accommodate their change in activity.

Some dogs love the snow, for example, and might play in it several times a day. On those days, they may need more calories to counterbalance the extra exercise. Other dogs will steer clear, even for toilet breaks. Because they’re less active they should consume fewer calories.

Depending on your climate, your pet’s skin may also dry out somewhat. Foods with extra oils like coconut oil can help reduce uncomfortable cracked skin.

These blog posts will give you essential tips and insights into how to make sure your pet gets the best meals possible for chillier times:

  1. Pet Food Insights with Royal Canin and Purina
  2. How Do I Get My Dog to Eat Dry Food?
  3. Dry Cat Food vs Wet: Which One?
  4. Pros and Cons of Raw Food for Puppies
  5. Things That Can Poison Your Pet – Toxic Foods and Plants

Watch the water

Pets always need access to fresh water, indoors and outdoors. Even in colder times when they might be less active. The dryness and warmth of artificial indoor heating can make them thirstier than usual.

If you live in a really cold area, consider a heated bowl to keep water from freezing.

Keep your pet warm by dressing for the weather

When it comes to cats, unless you’re keeping them outside (not good for them or the wildlife), there’s no need for clothing. Dogs don’t usually need clothes either. Speak to your vet about your pet’s needs before buying up on winter fashion to keep your pet warm.

If they think your pet may need an extra layer, an easily washable jersey is great. Especially for short-legged dogs who run close to the ground and often get wet from it.

But no loose, lengthy, floppy, or dangly bits. These can lead to accidents and even strangle an animal. And don’t forget that a clothed pet near the heater is going to get really hot really fast; take it off as the room warms.

TIP: Look for a jersey that’s waterproof underneath if your pet is active outdoors.

Know when it’s too cold

Any mammal can succumb to the cold with nasty conditions like frostbite on the ears or hypothermia. If it’s too cold outside for you to bear, it’s probably too cold for your pet.

Very young pets and older ones will also be more susceptible to low temperature, wind chill, and the wet than adult pets. And they could get really ill from it. Watch for signs that your pooch can’t handle the deep chill, including shaking, cowering, repeatedly lifting up their feet, and continuously trying to go back inside. Remember: Hypothermia can kill.

It’s one of those things that can happen without you realising. Just like accidents and unexpected illnesses. Best to look into pet insurance and ensure your fur baby is covered for unforeseen treatments. Watch the video below to learn more about the benefits of pet insurance:

FAQ relating to how to keep a pet warm

We’ve got your back with answers to the most pressing questions people ask the internet about cold weather and pets. Like how to care for a stray cat in winter, do pets get sick in winter, do cats gain weight in winter, and how to exercise your dog in winter…

How to care for a stray cat in winter?

Caring for a stray cat in winter requires some extra TLC. Firstly, provide them with a warm and sheltered space, like a cozy box filled with blankets, away from harsh winds and snow. Offering food and fresh water daily is crucial, as resources may be scarce for these little wanderers. Keep in mind some strays may be hesitant at first, so approach them gently and patiently.

If possible, try to gain their trust and consider reaching out to local animal shelters or rescue organisations for support. If you’re willing to take it a step further, consider taking kitty to a vet for a check-up and vaccinations. Remember, your love and care can be a lifeline for a stray cat in need, making their winter a little warmer.

Do pets get sick in the winter?

Well, just like us, pets can be affected by winter’s chill, but it’s not a guarantee they’ll get sick. During winter, it’s essential to pay extra attention to your pet’s well-being and if they may be feeling sick. Keep them warm and cozy indoors when it’s freezing outside; if they do venture out, ensure they have proper protection.

Additionally, remember some pets with pre-existing health conditions or weaker immune systems might be more vulnerable in winter, so keep an eye on any changes in behaviour or appetite that would signify they may be getting sick. Regular visits to the vet for check-ups are also a great way to stay on top of their health.

Do cats gain weight in the winter?

The truth is, just like us humans, cats can be prone to gaining a bit of weight in winter. The colder weather often keeps them indoors more and, with less physical activity, they might burn fewer calories.

Do pets get sick in the winter? Yes they would, if they were this cat left outside in the cold.

How to exercise your dog in the winter?

When exercising your dog in the winter, it’s crucial to strike a balance between fun and safety. Choosing the right time to go outside, especially when it’s not too cold, is key.

When exercising your dog in the winter, mix up the exercise routine by incorporating indoor activities like hide-and-seek or setting up a mini obstacle course. Don’t forget to give them mental stimulation through interactive puzzle toys to keep their minds sharp.

How to exercise your dog in the winter? Shorter walks are perfectly fine as exercise for your dog in chillier times, so follow your fur kid’s lead and watch for any signs of discomfort.

What award-winning pet insurance should you give a pet?

Here’s a heartwarming one: how do you find great pet insurance? Well, we reckon you should check out what we have to offer. For example, with PD Insurance, you can get one or more months FREE of award-winning pet insurance if you buy online!

Our 3 simple PD pet insurance policies have the low-cost, quality protection your furry family member deserves. You can go to any vet and upgrade or downgrade your plan with no lock-in contract. Plus, we give discounts for insuring more than one pet.

Having a pet plan means your pup or puss won’t be out in the cold if they suddenly need emergency vet treatment. You won’t be alone paying the costs of medication, surgery, X-rays, hospitalisation, and other treatment costs. Click below to get a quote today.

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