Snowy days are exciting for both humans and their pets, but with the snow comes a need for extra safety precautions.

Before going outside

Before getting out into the snow, dogs may need some extra bundling to stay warm. Lindsay High, community relations insight director at the Pennsylvania SPCA Lancaster Center, says that while dogs like huskies are built for the snow, smaller dogs or dogs with short hair may need a sweater or jacket for warmth.

High’s dog wears a green jacket to go out in the snow / Photo courtesy of Lindsay High

While outside

High recommends that dogs be supervised while outside in the snow. One reason for this is to make sure they aren’t getting too chilly. “Animals, just like people, can be subject to freezing and hypothermia,” says High.

Jessica Grove, associate veterinarian at Neffsville Veterinary Clinic, says a runny nose or shaking may indicate that a dog is cold and ready to go back inside.

Additionally, it’s important to keep an eye on dogs so they don’t get lost. “During the winter months, dogs are lost…at a higher rate than any other time of the year,” says High. This is because the snow dampens their sense of smell and can make it harder for them to find their way back home, she explains.

Grove says hazardous driving conditions created by snow can also increase the danger for animals near roadways. She encourages walking dogs on leashes unless they’re in a fenced area.

When the temperature is 32 degrees or lower, High recommends dogs not be outside for more than half an hour.

Coming back inside

High and Grove say owners should dry off their dogs before they come inside. While this may help protect the furniture, it’s also important because the salt used to melt snow and ice can hurt pups’ paws and underbellies and can even be toxic if ingested.

Some kinds of salt are more pet-friendly than others, as is indicated on their packaging, says Grove.

High explains that wiping off dogs with a warm, wet cloth and then a dry towel can help protect them from the salt.

Some dogs may be comfortable wearing shoes to protect their feet from salt and snow, too. This can work well if the dog will tolerate it, says High; however, the shoes should have a breathable material on the top to prevent dogs’ paws from sweating and getting irritated.

What about cats?

High says outdoor cats can still go outside in the snow, but she recommends creating some kind of outdoor shelter for them. This could be as simple as a box positioned next to the building and filled with blankets and hay for insulation, she explains.

These shelters can also be helpful for feral or community cats, says High.

Another consideration for feral or community felines… “Cats will sometimes tuck in up under the wheel wells of cars to keep warm and to get shelter,” High says. She suggests banging on the hood of the car or honking the horn before driving to frighten away any slumbering cats.

If you have pictures of your pets in the snow, we’d love to see them! Tweet your photos with the hashtag #abc27snowstorm, and check out to see what others in the community are posting.

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