Paws for Wellness A happy and healthy pet starts with a plan!

12 Winter Safety Tips for Pets

In the upper parts of North America, the snow has started to fly. Admittedly, this may make some of us jealous of our Australian friends who are just heading into summer now, and who might not find these winter safety tips quite so relevant at the moment. However, the cold, snowy winter season some of us are heading into does come with its share of challenges for our furry friends, so let’s take a moment to make sure we are all prepared for all Old Man Winter tries to throw at us.

  1. Keep them inside.
    Many people think cats and dogs are more resilient to the cold weather and snow than people are because of their fur, but that isn’t necessarily true. Dogs like Huskies or cats like the Norwegian Forest Cat may have a higher tolerance for the cold and snow, and even enjoy it, but all animals are still at risk for hypothermia and frostbite if they stay outdoors too long. Never force an animal to stay out longer than they should, and encourage your more winter-enthused pets to come inside after a reasonable length of time. Try to keep outdoor cats inside as much as possible.
  2. Keep them warm outside.
    If your pet is an outdoor animal, make sure they have a safe shelter protected from the elements to retreat to. It should be completely dry and draft free, large enough for them to lie down and move around in, but small enough to hold their body heat in. It should be raised off the ground a few inches, have the floor covered with straw and consider adding some cozy blankets to curl up in. The entrance should be watertight and seal itself after the pet has entered or exited. However, be open to allowing your outdoor pet inside if the weather gets very bad or they seem miserable outdoors.
  3. Dress them up.
    Not in the silly costumed way, but many pets become agreeable to wearing a winter coat and boots when they realize it keeps them warmer outside and lets them enjoy their walks and romps that much more. Make sure any coat or sweater fits your pet properly, and that it doesn’t impede their movement, eyesight, or hearing. Ensure that their regular leash and collar/ harness can also still be safety worn under or over the garment to keep them safely controlled.
  4. Know their limits.
    You may have to adjust the length of your daily walk with your dog when it is very cold out. Older pets may have more difficulty walking on snow and ice, and health problems like arthritis may be aggravated by the cold. Young, short-haired, and smaller pets may also feel the cold more acutely and need to shorten the length of time spent outdoors. Be aware of how your pet acts outside, and head back in if they start shivering or acting miserable.
  5. Feed well.
    Make sure your pet has plenty of food and water to keep up energy levels. Maintaining body temperature in the cold can use up more energy. However, that doesn’t mean you should overfeed you pet through the winter, especially if they are getting less outdoor exercise than when it is warmer – they still need to maintain a healthy weight. Ask your veterinarian if you think you may need to adjust your pet’s food through the winter months.
  6. Announce your presence.
    The warm engines of parked cars can attract cats and other wildlife to curl up inside them to get warm, so make sure to bang on the hood of your car to scare them away before starting the engine.
  7. Protect paws from salt.
    The salt and ice melters used on sidewalks, roads and in parking lots can wreak havoc on exposed paws. Smaller and/or daintier pets may especially be sensitive to them. Try to persuade your pet to wear booties if your normal outdoor route takes you on salted paths or sidewalks, to protect their feet both from the roughness of the salts and the chemicals in them that can burn the pads of their paws. Make sure to thoroughly wipe down paws and underbellies after being outside to remove any wayward salt or chemicals.
  8. Keep antifreeze out of reach.
    Antifreeze has a sweet taste and smell that pets are attracted to, but it is a deadly poison for them if consumed. Many manufacturers now add a bittering agent to it to make it less appealing to animals and children, but the safest thing is to keep any bottles of antifreeze high up out of reach and to clean up any spills promptly to discourage accidental ingestion.
  9. Never leave a pet in a cold car.
    Much the same as leaving pets in a hot car in the summer can be deadly, a cold car in the winter can be just as dangerous. Cars can cool down quickly in cold weather and rapidly become like a refrigerator, dangerously lowering your pet’s body temperature in a short amount of time. It is much safer to just leave your pet at home than to risk leaving them in a cold car while you go into the grocery store or the mall. If car travel is necessary, make sure your vehicle is always warm and never leave your pet in the car unattended.
  10. Steer clear of bodies of water.
    Even if it looks frozen and like it could hold your pet’s body weight, it is best to steer clear of any icy bodies of water during walks and outdoor adventures with your pets. Unless it is a body of water used for ice fishing, sledding, etc. that has the ice thickness and safety reported on publicly, it is best to stay far away from the dangers of water and ice during the cold winter months.
  11. Stock up.
    When you stock up on supplies in anticipation of a winter storm keeping you housebound for a few days, remember your pet’s needs too. Make sure you have sufficient food, water, treats, and any medications for your pet for at least a week.
  12. Watch for changes or issues.
    Pay attention to any changes in your pet’s personality, habits or behaviors that could indicate an issue. Watch for signs of hypothermia (whining, shivering, weakness, anxiety), check paws, noses and ears for frostbite, and generally watch for any changes that could indicate the weather is causing a health problem or they may have ingested something they shouldn’t have. Bring your pet to the vet if you notice any signs that are concerning.

With some common sense and easy adjustments, you can make sure that your pet enjoys the winter as much (or as little) as they like!


Why We Are Your Best Choice

  • Fully Equipped and Prepared for Your Pet's Needs

    Our hospital is a 6,000 sq ft facility with a large kennel, grooming room, treatment area, and more to best serve our patients.

  • High-Quality Care Tailored to Each Patient

    We value the human-animal bond and strive to provide premium, loving care for your pet's unique needs.

  • Monthly Continuing Education for All Staff Members

    We believe that education is the key to preventing illness and shortening the recovery time for your pet's ailments.

Don't Delay

Contact Us Today!
  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.

Meet Our Team

  • Dr. Laura  Neuhaus (Raiff) Photo
    Dr. Laura Neuhaus (Raiff)


    Dr. Laura Neuhaus is a graduate of the University of Missouri - College of Veterinary Medicine. Following graduation, she completed an emergency and specialty medicine internship at VCA Emergency Animal Hospital and Referral Center in San Diego. She enjoys ophthalmology and has a special interest in avian medicine. Her hobbies include gardening, hiking, and spending time outdoors. She is the proud parent of a cat and 2 parrotlets.
  • Dr. Mitchell  Meyerhoeffer Photo
    Dr. Mitchell Meyerhoeffer


    A Virginia native, Dr. Mitchell Meyerhoeffer (Dr. M is fine!) started his career in the veterinary field in high school at Chesterfield Technical Center's veterinary science program. He completed his undergraduate degree in Biology at Virginia Commonwealth University while working as a veterinary assistant in a specialty and emergency hospital. Dr. M then completed his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine training at Virginia Tech, enjoying the hiking and outdoor scenery in Blacksburg when he could ...
  • Beth   Photo

    Veterinary Technician

    Beth joined the GAH staff in April 2010. Originally from Maryland, she now lives in the Gloucester area. She has been working as a Licensed Veterinary Technician since graduating from Blue Ridge Community College in 1989. Away from work, she enjoys reading and working her dogs in obedience and agility classes. She has two dogs, three cats, four ferrets and three reptiles.
  • Becca   Photo

    Veterinary Assistant

    Profile coming soon!
  • Mary   Photo

    Treatment Team Lead

    Profile coming soon!
  • C

    Veterinary Assistant

    Bio Coming Soon!
  • Z

    Veterinary Assistant

    Bio Coming Soon!
  • Felicia   Photo

    Kennel Care Team Lead

    Profile coming soon!
  • Alex   Photo

    Kennel Care Team

    Profile coming soon!
  • Laiya   Photo

    Kennel Care Team

    Bio Coming Soon!
  • Brittany   Photo

    Kennel Care Team

    Profile coming soon!
  • Aidan   Photo

    Professional Groomer

    I'm Aidan, and I'm not your typical groomer. I'm a passionate animal lover with a heart full of love for our furry friends. Every day, I get the incredible opportunity to work my magic as a groomer at the renowned Grafton Animal Hospital. I can't express just how much I adore what I do. It's not just a job; it's a calling. I find immense joy in transforming your beloved pets into the best versions of themselves. Whether it's a shaggy dog that needs a fresh haircut, a cat in need of a spa day, or ...
  • Tracy   Photo

    Practice Manager

    Profile coming soon!
  • Ricky   Photo

    Front Desk Supervisor

    Ricky came to Grafton Animal Hospital in April of 2011. He was a little shy at first, but once he became more comfortable with us, he became one of the team. Ricky is a Congo African Grey Parrot. We think he is around 10 years old, but no one is sure. He will sometimes put on a show of whistling, talking, singing and dancing, and imitating sounds like telephones and coughing. Visit our Facebook page for an opportunity to see Ricky in action.
  • Lucy   Photo

    Staff Meeting Coordinator

    Lucy joined the Grafton Animal Hospital reception team as the new Noisemaker bird in September 2016. After losing our long-time mascot, Croaker, earlier that year, we learned of a young Quaker parrot available for adoption at the Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter and decided she might be a good fit for the clinic. Lucy quickly made herself at home and before long, she was showing the staff who was really in charge. She is generally pretty friendly, so you will often see the staff holding her. ...
  • Daisy & Duke   Photo
    Daisy & Duke

    Staff Meeting Coordinators

    Daisy and Duke joined the GAH team in June of 2009. They were stray kittens that needed a home, and Squeaks was in need of a brother or sister. After some convincing, we were able to keep both. If you haven’t seen our kittens roaming the clinic, it’s because they are still learning their way around. For now, they are great morale boosters that keep us entertained during our staff meetings.
  • Potato   Photo

    Grooming Manager

    Bio Coming Soon.
  • K


    Bio Coming Soon!
  • J


    Bio Coming Soon!
  • A


    Bio Coming Soon!
  • M

    Kennel Care Team

    Bio Coming Soon!