Cold Weather Care for Pets

Winter in Detroit brings certainty that harsh winds, snow, and freezing temperatures are a reality that we all face. While we bundle in warm coats and insulated boots to hold back winter, it is important to remember that cats and dogs feel the effects of the cold and inclement weather just as we do.


keep them indoors

Friends of Detroit Animal Care and Control advocates for companion pets to be kept indoors year-round. For those animals who live in the elements, especially winter weather, there are provisions that are necessary and legally required to keep animals outside for any length of time. These provisions are fresh (not frozen) water, food, and an appropriate shelter, which can make the difference between life and death for outside pets.

Appropriate shelter means a well-built, insulated, slant-roofed house. The interior should be just large enough for the animal to stand and to lie down comfortably. It should be slightly elevated from the ground for air circulation. The door should face away from prevailing winds and have a protective flap to eliminate drafts. The shelter must have fresh, dry straw for bedding and insulation. Blankets, towels, and rugs get wet and freeze, and will provide no protection.

To report pets left outside without proper shelter in Detroit, call Detroit Animal Care and Control at (313) 224-6356 or the police department. In other areas, contact the local animal control or police department.

Cold Temperature Guidelines for Dogs from

In general, cold temperatures should not become a problem for most dogs until they fall below 45°F, at which point some cold-averse dogs might begin to feel uncomfortable. When temperatures fall below 32°F, owners of small breed dogs, dogs with thin coats, and/or very young, old, or sick dogs should pay close attention to their pet’s well-being. Once temperatures drop under 20°F, all owners need to be aware that their dogs could potentially develop cold-associated health problems like hypothermia and frostbite.

The best way to monitor dogs when it’s cold is to keep a close eye on their behavior. If you notice your dog shivering, acting anxious, whining, slowing down, searching out warm locations, or holding up one or more paws, it’s time to head inside.



tips from the american society for the prevention of cruelty to animals (aspca)

  • Keep cats inside! Cats have a very difficult time outdoors, where they are susceptible to frostbite and freezing, can become lost or stolen, or worse still, be injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are also exposed to fatal infectious diseases, including rabies.
  • During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes choose to sleep under the hoods of vehicles, where it is warmer. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed in the fan belt. To prevent this, bang loudly on the hood of your vehicle and wait a few seconds before starting the engine, to startle the cat and give it a chance to move along.
  • When walking your dog, never let it off leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm. Dogs frequently lose their scent in snow and ice and can easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season!
  • Thoroughly wipe off your dog's legs and stomach when it comes in out of the rain, snow, or ice. Pay special attention to the sensitive paw pads, which may bleed from snow or ice encrusted in them. Remember too that salt, antifreeze, or other chemicals could make your dog ill if it ingests the while licking its paws.
  • If you own a short-haired dog, consider purchasing a warm coat or sweater. Choose one with a high collar or turtleneck that covers the dog from the base of its tail on top and to the belly underneath. While some may view a dog sweater as a luxury, it is a necessity for many dogs.
  • Never leave your dog or cat alone in a vehicle during the cold weather, as the car or truck can act like a refrigerator, holding in the cold, with the potential of your animal freezing to death.
  • If your canine friend is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness, or breed type, ensure that it is outdoors only long enough to relieve itself.
  • Puppies have not developed a tolerance for the cold as well as adult dogs and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If it is necessary, paper-train your puppy inside until it appears to be acclimated to the weather.
  • If your dog spends a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities, increase its supply of food, particularly protein, to keep its fur thick and healthy.
  • Antifreeze, even in very small doses, is a lethal poison for dogs and cats, and because of its sweet taste, animals are attracted to it. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle. To prevent accidental poisonings, animal-friendly products with safer ingredients are suggested. Contact your veterinarian or the National Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA/NAPCC) immediately if you suspect your animal has been poisoned.
  • Never shave your dog down to the skin the winter. Leave the coat in a longer style, which provides more warmth. Remember that such a style will require more frequent brushing due to dry winter air and static electricity. When you bathe your dog, make sure it is completely dry before you take it outside.
  • Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep far away from all drafts and off the floor, such as in a dog bed, cat bed, or basket with a warm blanket or pillow in it.

If you are aware of an animal that needs shelter in Detroit, please call Detroit Animal Care and Control at (313) 224-6356 or the police department.