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Keeping Pets Safe in Cold Weather

New Mexico’s weather can be unpredictable, especially here in Santa Fe. With the colder months officially here, pet owners should keep an eye on dropping temperatures, blustery winds, and snow accumulation. With a little vigilance and the tips below, keeping pets safe in cold weather can be a cinch.

Keep cats inside

Cats can freeze or become lost or injured in cold weather. Many cats and small wildlife seek shelter under car hoods for warmth. When the motor is started, injury and even death can occur. As a precaution, bang loudly on the hood of your car before starting your engine, in case a stray cat is using the vehicle as a safe haven.

If possible, keep dogs indoors, too

Some dog breeds can remain outside longer safely in the winter than others. In some cases, keeping pets safe in cold weather is about common sense: long-haired breeds like Huskies will do better on a chilly day than short-haired dogs, and small dogs that have to wade shoulder-deep in the snow will feel the cold sooner than larger breeds. Whatever the breed, if you cannot leave your dog inside the house, consider a garage or other sheltered area.

Always take extra care keeping pets safe in cold weather, especially elderly and very young animals, and pets that are not in good health. They are most susceptible to the effects of cold weather.

Keep your dog leashed

Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, or during a snowstorm. Dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours wears ID tags. Better yet, have your pets microchipped.


Frostbite is another concern during the cold weather. Frostbitten skin is red or gray and may slough. If your animal shows sign of frostbite, use warm, moist towels to thaw the areas slowly and consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Dry skin

Dry skin may be uncomfortable for pets in cold weather, just as it can be for people. A dog that scratches and sheds flakes of skin can be bathed with oatmeal shampoo to soothe the skin. Fatty acid supplements, such as fish and/or flax seed oil, may also help a pet feel less itchy.

Antifreeze poisoning

Antifreeze is highly toxic and can be deadly, so keep it in a safe place and make sure your vehicle isn’t leaking any onto the garage floor. The HSUS and ASPCA suggest using products made with propylene glycol (rather than ethylene glycol). Alternative formulas do cost a bit more than regular antifreeze, but it’s worth it to keep your pets safe in the cold weather.