Protecting Pets from Adverse and Dangerous Winter Conditions

Chicago, IL— The Chicago metropolitan area was inundated by the Blizzard of 2011 less than three years ago. This winter, pet owners throughout the Chicago metropolitan area must be prepared as the earliest below zero Fahrenheit temperatures seen in the past 18 years have arrived in Chicago. UPDATE: Today, the Chicago area achieved a new record of -15 degrees below zero Fahrenheit with dangerous -40 degrees below zero Fahrenheit windchills. 

The below zero conditions combined with dangerous wind chills pose challenges especially for pet owners. Steps taken by pet owners can help to keep pets safe from the cold weather and prevent serious health threats.

During the winter and always, the best and most sensible action is to keep cats indoors and out of the elements. Provide a proper, balanced diet and ensure that they are in good health.  Since cats keep their illnesses a secret as a survival tactic, it is most important that you watch your cat for any early signs of illness. Make certain your cat gets a regular physical examination from your veterinarian to detect any potential diseases and other health problems early on, so that they can be addressed and treated before becoming threatening to your cat’s health, happiness, and quality of life.

Dogs present somewhat of a different calling. While the aforementioned areas hold true for cats, dogs are often outdoors for walks and exercise with their owners. Cold weather can be as dangerous for them, as it is for humans. Short haired dogs can benefit from a doggie coat when walking outdoors. All dogs should become acclimated to the colder weather.

If you want to take your dog jogging with you, be sure the dog is properly conditioned. If you have been running regularly, start gradually when you decide to take your dog out for runs with you.  Ice, particularly thin ice that cracks under foot, can lead to cut paws. Snow packed between the pads of the feet can lead to frost bite. Additionally, salt or ice melting products can be harmful to the feet of dogs. You should thoroughly rinse the paws after returning from a walk outside. You will find many good booties available that may help your dog to tolerate the conditions and prevent injury.

According to past Chicago Veterinary Medical Association President Dr. Alexis Newman, “In general, if its too cold for you to be outside comfortably, then the same holds true for your dog. Most can tolerate short periods of exposure to cold, but must be monitored closely. If they are having difficulty walking or breathing, they should be brought inside and warmed. Injuries from exposure to cold are easily prevented.”

As noted by CVMA Public Education Committee member Dr. Fred Goldenson, “Be prepared if your pet gets out and becomes lost. Have recent pictures ready to post in the neighborhood and to give to animal control and shelters, so that your pet will be reunited with you as quickly as possible.  Be sure your pet has a tag on its collar with your current contact information. A rabies tag alone does not help much if your pet is found after office hours at animal control.”

Perhaps most important of all, be sure to get a microchip for your dog or cat from your veterinarian if you have not already done so. If your pet does have a microchip, be certain that the contact information that is on file associated with the microchip is current, including your cell phone number, particularly if you are traveling with your pet. Do not forget to update this if you move or your contact information changes. It may make the difference on whether or not you are able to reunite with your pet. 

For more information about the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association, please visit


The CVMA is an association of over 1000 veterinarians and 4000 support staff who lovingly assist more than one million Chicago area pets and their families.

The membership of the CVMA is dedicated to the health and well-being of animals through its nurturing of the human animal bond. The CVMA will strive to fulfill the diversified needs of its members by providing nationally recognized CE programs, cultivating membership involvement, and offering innovative member services and exemplary public awareness.

Since 1896, the CVMA has continued a proud tradition of providing its members with vital services and programs which have expanded dramatically over a century to meet the ever-changing needs of the veterinary profession and its diverse patients and clients.


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Protecting Pets from Adverse and Dangerous Winter Conditions