Winter safety guide for your pet

Written by veterinarian Dr Rosemary Elliot for Choosi

Winter has arrived, so it’s time to rug up against the cold and enjoy what this special time of year offers – like curling up on the couch with a blanket, cosy fires and warming meals! You may also wonder how winter affects your pets, and how to adapt your care for them during this season. The good news is, our furry friends are not so different from us, so keep reading for Choosi’s pet winter safety tips.

How the change in season can affect our pets

Like their owners, cats and dogs will spend time in winter seeking out sources of warmth. You may find your pet favouring a sunny spot near the window, spending more time in the kitchen, or curled up near a heater or fireplace. Floor rugs are preferred over tiling, and many pets love nothing more than getting into our beds, and even hiding under the doona!

Whilst their aim is to keep themselves toasty, there are some risks you need to be aware of. Pets can be seriously injured through overheating, hyperthermia or burns from being too close to a heater or fire. Cats that sleep outdoors have even been known to climb into car engines to keep warm. At the other extreme, pets that are left outdoors or become accidentally locked out during cold conditions may risk suffering from hypothermia, which means they are unable to regulate their body temperature back to normal. The consequences of severe hypothermia include neurological problems (such as falling into a coma), heart problems, kidney failure, slow or no breathing, frostbite, and even eventually death.

Another change you may notice is your pet eating more during the winter months. This is a way of keeping warm but can lead to weight gain, particularly if your pet is not exercising as much. Being overweight is just as bad for our pets as it is for us, and can worsen conditions such as arthritis by putting too much pressure on the joints.

Pets with arthritis typically experience more pain and joint stiffness during the cold weather, which reduces their mobility. Sometimes the signs of arthritis can be more subtle, particularly in cats, and may include problems grooming or using their litter box.

A health problem to look out for when walking your dog in winter is skin infections due to moisture becoming trapped under the fur or in between the toes after walking in wet weather. Rain rot happens to be a quite common (and often highly contagious) skin infection that pets can suffer from during wet weather, but it can also be prevalent in humid conditions too. Some of the symptoms your pet might show would be red skin, itching and even small scabs. If you notice this, it’s important to take your pet to the vet.

10 ways to keep your pet warm and safe during winter

To ensure your cat or dog’s wellbeing during winter and avoid the risks this season can bring, use the following tips as a winter safety guide for your pet:

  1. Help your pet beat the winter blues by providing shelter, preferably by keeping them indoors with warm bedding away from drafts or cold surfaces.
  2. Add extra blankets and even a pet heating pad but avoid hot water bottles or electric blankets.
  3. Supervise pets around fires and heaters and always use a safety grill and screen.
  4. Provide outdoor pets with a warm waterproof enclosure that protects them from the wind and rain.
  5. Keep the cold at bay for your pet through a well fitted pet coat or jumper if they tolerate this, but remember to remove these when indoors to prevent overheating.
  6. Continue your pet’s regular grooming to remove matts or knots.
  7. Dry your dog’s coat thoroughly and wipe their feet after walking in wet weather.
  8. Maintain your pet’s exercise routine or adapt this as needed by playing indoor games, which also provides mental stimulation.
  9. Speak to your veterinarian about your pet’s diet during the colder months.
  10. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations about arthritis management for your pet, and keep up their regular health checks.

Keep your pets warm and safe

Winter can be a magical time of year and one of the best ways to keep warm is to snuggle up with your furry friend. Having a winter safety guide will help you to keep them healthy and happy but remember to seek the advice of your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your cat or dog.

Having a pet insurance policy is one way to give you the peace of mind of knowing you can cover any eligible vet bills for accidental injury or illness. Choosi can help you compare a range of pet insurance policies to help you find one that suits your needs.


Choosi works with a range of insurers to arrange cover on their behalf, but you should be aware that they do not work for the entire market. This is general information and does not take into account your financial situation.