Cold Weather Tips: Keeping Pets Warm, Comfortable and Safe

As temperatures fall, the risk of our pets suffering frostbite, hypothermia, or worse increases. Don’t let their fur coats fool you. Pets are as susceptible to cold as humans are!

While Columbus city law technically allows for animals to be left outside, untethered, with access to adequate shelter and non-frozen water, it is not in the animal’s best interest during cold weather conditions. Cold weather is particularly dangerous for animals with respiratory issues, those that are underweight or smaller breeds. Both senior and young animals are especially susceptible to frigid temperatures. 

Here are some tips to keep your pets warm and safe this winter.  

Keep pets inside your home as much as possible during cold weather. While it may seem that dogs and cats’ fur keeps them warm, they are still susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. Even long-haired or thick coated dogs should not be outside for long periods of time in below-freezing temperatures.

  • Adjust your pets’ walks according to the temperature and your individual pet. Older pets might have a hard time walking on snow and ice and may be at risk of slipping.

  • Short-haired pets have less protection and may benefit from a sweater when they go outside.

  • Short-legged pets can become colder faster as their bellies can drag in the snow and ice.

  • Puppies and kittens are more susceptible to cold weather than older pets.

  • Do not leave pets in parked vehicles. The temperature in a vehicle can plummet quickly, leaving your pet in the freezing cold.

  • If your pet is outside for any length of time, make sure he has warm shelter and access to plenty of fresh, non-frozen water and food.

  • Use a heated water bowl outside to keep your pet’s water from freezing over.

  • Stray and outdoor cats like to keep warm inside car engines and in wheel wells. Before starting your car, bang on the hood to startle and evacuate any stowaways.

What to do if You See a Pet Suffering in the Cold

How do you know a pet is suffering or in imminent danger?

Physical signs of mild to moderate hypothermia:

  • Weakness

  • Shivering

  • Lack of mental alertness

  • A stupor-like state

  • Shallow, slow breathing.

Environmental signs:

  • No access to shelter

  • No access to non-frozen water

  • If there is shelter or water but the animal is tethered and cannot reach it

 What to do:

  • Take photos and/or video of the scene from your own property or public property. Do not trespass.

  • Contact Columbus Humane’s Cruelty Investigations line at 614-777-PETS (7387) or file a complain online at

All calls are prioritized based on level of danger for the animals. In circumstances where outdoor shelter for animals meets the minimum standards of the law, humane agents make every effort to improve those standards of care by providing additional insulation materials or supplies to help owners bring their animals inside.

The safety and wellbeing of animals and people is a primary concern. While Columbus Humane is looking to expand protection efforts for animals in dangerously cold temperatures with the help of community partners; it’s important to note that our humane agents’ availability to respond to calls is limited to daytime hours to protect their safety. Our humane agents are fully authorized and trained to enforce animal cruelty laws, however they are not police officers and are not equipped for after-hours enforcement.