Outdoor Winter Hazards

Keep Your Pets Warm, Dry & Safe During the Cold Weather


It’s that time of year when the freezing temperatures and snow can be very dangerous to our pets. The doctors and staff at Yakima Pet Emergency Service, want to remind you that the dogs and cats in our community are not conditioned to severe cold. These drops in temperatures can cause serious and fatal health problems very quickly.


10 Tips to Keeping Them Safe:


  1. Hypothermia and dehydration are the two most probable life-threatening conditions for animals in cold weather. Make sure your pet is indoors or in covered shelter, with plenty of food and water. Blankets or thick towels, even an old quilt will give your animal something to snuggle in against the cold. If you cannot bring your animal inside, check on him or her regularly. Animals used to living in warm temperatures aren’t as able to acclimate to a severe drop in temperature.
  2. Animals drink less in cold weather, so it’s important to make sure your pet is getting hydrated. Be sure your pet’s water supply does not freeze.
  3. Keep them out of the wind. When pets are exposed to the wind, they are experiencing temperatures colder than what the thermometer may say. If the temperature reads 30 degrees, with a 5 mph wind, the temperature you are actually experiencing is 25 degrees. The faster the wind or colder the temperature, the greater the variance is in the actual temperature you are experiencing.
  4. Be aware that some chemicals used to melt snow can be hazardous to your pet! Keep a close eye on them when they’re outside, and be sure to clean off their feet when they before coming back inside. That way, they won’t lick their feet and ingest any toxic residue.
  5. Leaving a pet in the car on these cold winter days can be dangerous. Small dogs and all short haired dogs especially, need some sort of blanket or coat if they will be in a cold car for any length of time.
  6. Avoid letting them play in water. It can drop their body temperature severely. If your pet runs through a puddle or falls in a lake, get them out and dry them off immediately.
  7. Very young, very old and sick animals need special attention during the cold. Their immune systems can’t handle the weather as well as other pets. These pets also often have less muscle and fat stores to generate heat in cold temperatures.  After they become cold, older or sick, pets often cannot get themselves to warm shelter, even if it is available.
  8. Keep your cat inside. Outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or stolen, injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious disease, including rabies, from other cats, dogs and wildlife.
  9. During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape.
  10. Antifreeze, also known as coolant, is a lethal poison, for both dogs and cats. If a spill occurs, be sure to thoroughly clean up those areas, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. You can visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for more information. 


Early signs of Hypothermia include: shivering, lethargy, depression, wobbly legs and pale gums. If your pet has any sign of hypothermia, contact your veterinarian.


Winter can be a beautiful time of year. It can be a dangerous time as well, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. If you take some precautions, you and your pet can have a fabulous time.