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Dog dressed for winter snow

5 tips for winterizing your pets

We all know what winter prep looks like for humans—we dig out our parkas and gloves, put snow tires on our cars, and maybe install plastic shrink-wrap insulation over those drafty windows.

But what do we do to protect our pets from the frigid conditions many parts of the nation face each winter? Here we’ll look at five easy tips you can follow to winterize your pets safely and on a budget.

Tip 1: Dress your pet for warmth.

If you have a pet that’s used to lots of outdoor time, be sure they are properly dressed for the cold temps. This is especially important for short-haired dog breeds because they have less protection. As with humans, a cozy coat or sweater can help your pet maintain a layer of warmer air close to the skin, preventing heat loss, hypothermia, and frostbite. And if your pooch likes to play and roll in the snow, a coat is a great way to keep warm! Most pet stores sell animal coats in a range of sizes—from teacup to mastiff—so be sure you get the size that’s right for your pet. The ideal coat should allow your pet full mobility and the ability to urinate and defecate without soiling the garment.

Tip 2: Consider a poncho for rainy day walks.

A cold rain can be as bone-chilling and dangerous as long-term exposure to snow or ice. So if you plan to walk your pet in climates that experience frequent sleet or freezing rain, you may want to pack a plastic poncho. A rain poncho can even be folded and worn like a bandanna on those “just in case” days.

Tip 3: Try some skin soothers.

Cold, dry air is as harsh on our pets’ skin as it is on ours. Sometimes pets can develop raw or itchy skin in the winter months. Irritated spots can be washed with mildly soapy water, with an added application of triple-antibiotic ointment as a follow-up. Be sure to limit bathing during the winter months to avoid stripping the skin of natural oils.

Tip 4: Get your pet a reflective vest or collar for outdoor safety.

If you plan to walk your pet along rural roadways or even in city streets, a reflective collar or vest is a great way to alert motorists to your pet’s presence. As with any pet coat, a vest should allow your animal complete freedom of movement, and collars should not restrict breathing or swallowing.

Tip 5: Try some doggie booties for sensitive paws.

Icy surfaces and snow-encrusted sidewalks can be an added irritant to sensitive paws in wintertime. Foot coverings for pets are available in a range of sizes, and though they may take a bit of getting used to at first, they can help prevent painful ice deposits and salt irritations between the toe pads. For long-haired breeds, you can trim the coat slightly around the feet to minimize ice that can collect in the fur.

Bonus winter tip…

Check for stray cats in your vehicle's engine compartment or wheel wells. Feral cats will seek warmth wherever they can find it—even inside the moving parts of your car. A few raps on the hood and fender panels before starting the engine on a frigid morning can provide any hidden strays enough warning to get out before you turn the key.

With these tips in mind, we hope you and your pets will have a safe and fun winter!


Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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