heres what you need to know to keep your dog safe and happy during extreme cold weather

Here’s What You Need To Know To Keep Your Dog Safe And Happy During Extreme Cold Weather

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The U.S. is experiencing extremely low temperatures across the Midwest as a polar vortex sweeps through the area. If you live in an area affected by the low temperatures, be sure to keep your pets just as warm as the rest of your family.

It should go without saying that all pets should be indoors. Temperatures this low can be deadly to pets, and animal neglect is punishable by law in all 50 states. The rule is: if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them!

Keeping Your Pet Safe In Extreme Weather:

Pets should never be kept outdoors in temperatures lower than 20°F. If you are letting your dog out to use the bathroom keep his visit short and bring him right back inside.

If the weather is fair enough for walks be sure your dog wears boots, or wipe his paws afterward to make sure they’re free of salt. Salt from sidewalks can make his paws sensitive, and licking it off can upset his digestive tract.

If you need to travel it’s best to keep your pets at home unless it’s totally necessary to bring them. If you leave your car you should bring your pet with you if you can. The inside of a car can become very cold very fast, and your dog should never be left inside.

Not all dogs will respond to the cold the same – dogs who are young or old, smaller dogs, and those with short coats are likely to suffer the effects of extreme cold faster than other dogs.

Stray cats will be looking for someplace warm to sleep. Some cats will find a spot near a warm engine block to curl up. You can avoid causing them harm by banging on your hood to honking your car horn – you may startle them, but they won’t be hurt.

How To Entertain Your Dog Indoors

The weather is cold enough that walks and trips to the park will have to be put on hold! But there are ways to keep your dog entertained while keeping him safe and warm indoors. Exercising his mind can be just as fun and exhausting as exercising his body. Play games, teach him a new trick, or maybe treat him to a special spa day! Check out 10 Ways To Exercise Your Dog Indoors to make sure he’s getting all the physical and mental stimulation he needs!

The Sniff Diggy Nose Work Mat is a great way to bond with your dog and keep him entertained! Learn more in the iHeartDogs store!

Signs Of Hypothermia and Frostbite

Frostbite is painful and can cause infection and the death of affected tissue, most frequently on ears, tails, and paws. According to VCA Animal Hospital, you should look for the following symptoms if your dog has been outside, especially if he has been wet:

  • Discoloration of the affected area of skin – this discoloration is often pale, gray or bluish
  • Coldness and/or brittleness of the area when touched
  • Pain when you touch the body part
  • Swelling of the affected area
  • Blisters or skin ulcers
  • Areas of blackened or dead skin
  • As frostbite thaws, skin may become red and inflamed

Signs of frostbite can take several days to appear, especially if the affected areas are small or don’t bear any weight (like his ears.) If you think your dog may have frostbite, he should be taken to a vet immediately, who can prescribe pain medication and antibiotics. If left untreated, severe frostbite can require amputation.

Dogs who are exposed to the cold too long can suffer from hypothermia – abnormally low body temperature. Severe hypothermia can eventually lead to death, so it’s important that your dog is kept warm indoors. If he needs to go out, he should not be left out for longer than it takes to do his business.

Symptoms will vary depending on the severity of the condition. Watch out for:


  • weakness
  • shivering
  • lack of mental alertness


  • muscle stiffness
  • low blood pressure
  • a stupor-like state
  • shallow, slow breathing


  • fixed, dilated pupils
  • inaudible heartbeat
  • difficulty breathing
  • coma

How To Warm A Dog

If your dog’s body temperature is below 98°F he needs to be seen by a vet immediately. If you can, warm some blankets or towels as quickly as you can in a dryer or radiator, and wrap your dog in them. Keep your dog still, movement can make the condition worse. Don’t apply heat directly to your dog – if you can use a heating pad or hot water bottle, keep a towel between the source of heat and your dog.

What To Do If You See Pets Kept Outside

Unfortunately, not everyone will get the message about keeping their dogs indoors. If you see a dog left outdoors in the cold, you should contact your local law enforcement. Animal neglect is considered a misdemeanor in all 50 states. Some states consider it a felony, so people who are leaving their dogs out may be at risk of serious penalties. Some people are already facing charges this year.

The steps to take according to the Humane Society are:

  • Report what you see: Take note of the date, time, exact location and the type of animal(s) involved and write down as many details as possible about the situation. Video and photographic documentation of the animal, the location, the surrounding area, etc. (even a cell phone photo) will help bolster your case.

  • Contact your local animal control agency or county sheriff’s office and present your complaint and evidence. Take detailed notes regarding whom you speak with and when. Respectfully follow up in a few days if the situation has not been remedied.

  • If you need advice, call the HSUS or email us. Because we aren’t a law-enforcement agency, we cannot take legal action, but we can provide expert counsel.

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