Dog walking in snow

13 Dog Winter Myths


Are you aware of the many dog winter myths circulating like a winter freeze this time of year? Ah, the perils of winter: snow, slush, sleet, ice, frigid temperatures, and rock-salt laden highways and byways. The human variety can bundle up, slather on some lip balm, protect exposed skin, and venture out into nature’s cold bounty well-prepared.

Protecting our feline and canine family members is our responsibility, so here we dispel winter myths and provide snowball-sized facts to keep pets safe throughout winter’s fury. Some of these tips might even save your dog’s life, so we urge you to share this with any dog friends and family members.

Myth: Unlike summertime where a car acts as a greenhouse and can cause harm and even death to pets, a pet is safer in a car during winter months.

Fact: Pets can freeze to death even in a short period of time. Cars act as a refrigerator in cold months. A dog alone in a car, no matter the season, is a target for thieves.


Myth: All ice melts are created equal.

Fact: Not all ice melts are formulated to keep pets safe. Pet-safe ice melts should be salt- and chloride-free, which is safer on pet paws and stomachs. Never use a human grade ice melt, and always sprinkle a “safer than most” ice melt for pets on sidewalks; do not pile product and risk Fido or Fluffy’s health. Keep in mind: There is no such thing as a 100 percent safe ice melt; there are, however, ice melts that are safer to use in the company of pets.

Myth: A dog’s pads protect them from all elements of weather.

Fact: Though a dog’s pads contain much fatty tissue that does not freeze as easily as other tissues, protection against scuffing, scraping, cutting, and ice damage is crucial in winter months. Ice cubes and “snowballing” may occur in the delicate areas between toes and pads. Protective booties or a product like Musher’s Secret, which is used on sledding dogs, can help ease extreme conditions on sensitive pads. I’ve been using it on our dog’s pads year-round, as it helps with the hot pavement and sidewalk issue in the summertime on walks.


Myth: Dogs do not absorb antifreeze or harmful chemicals on walks through their paws.

Fact: A dog’s pads are more resilient than other parts of his body, but chemicals can be absorbed through them. In turn, chemicals like antifreeze can be licked by dogs and cause severe problems. Wipe dog pads off thoroughly after a walk, perhaps using some warm water and a washcloth to melt any ice balls that may have formed on the feet.

Myth: Coats and sweaters are for show and really do not keep pets warm in the winter months since animals have a natural fur coat.

Fact: Dogs and cats get cold, particularly short-haired breeds, senior citizens, puppies, and pets with medical conditions. Look for an insulated sweater with a turtleneck, that covers the belly, and that allows for protection from neck to tip of tail.


Myth: Dogs should gain weight in the winter to keep their fat ratio up and stay warm.

Fact: Not always. Though dogs are more sedentary in winter months, gaining weight as a form of insulation is not always advised. Indoor dogs who participate in strenuous activities or winter sports may require additional food in colder months. A recent study from the Association for Pet Obesity revealed that 53 percent of cats and 55 percent of dogs are overweight or obese in the United States. Keep a pet’s heart, organs, and joints healthy and keep an eye on their weight year round.

Myth: Thought a humidifier may help people, it does not do much for our pets during winter heating season.

Fact: Dry air in the home can make pets itchier, cause dry noses, upper respiratory infections, more dander, and dry throats. Consider a humidifier, talk to the veterinarian about skin conditioners and fatty acid supplements for healthy skin.


Myth: Fleas will not affect my pet during the winter months.

Fact: Though fleas may not survive in brutal winter temperatures outside, the warmth of home means fleas gravitate towards indoor comfort where they can affect pets. Using a natural, safer product(s) means no chemicals and a safe alternative for pest control and prevention during colder months. Always consult a veterinarian with any questions.

Myth: Tails, fur, and paws are safe from winter heating systems indoors.

Fact: As the temperatures drop, the thermostat rises indoors. The usage of an electric heater or fireplace should be done with caution. Tails, fur and paws that come too close to flames, hot surfaces or the coils of an electric heater can be damaged, and an unattended heater could be knocked over by a curious pet. To make sure your dog is warm indoors, and that fire hazards are diminished, never leave a heater on without someone in attendance.


Myth: The location of a dog’s bed is irrelevant in the winter months, as long as the dog is indoors.

Fact: A dog’s bed, kennel or “comfy spot” should be kept away from any drafty areas. Though dogs have a fur coat, cold can and does affect them. If you feel a draft or cold, then chances are your dog is feeling that same cold air. Keep dog beds off of heating vents, but in a spot that keeps them warm and secure.


Myth: Most liquids on frozen winter sidewalks are water or melted snow.

Fact: If dogs have access to the family garage, take a check for any antifreeze containers. Clean up any spills, do not allow pets to have access to any containers that are poisonous, and do not allow pets to lick or step in any puddles near cars while out on walks. Wipe your dog’s feet when returning home from a walk or outside activity. Keeping a washcloth near your exit/entrance is a good idea – dampen it and wash the dog’s paws before entering your house. If a dog licks his or her feet after walking in antifreeze, this is a serious threat.

Myth: There isn’t much to do with a dog in the winter months, since it is so cold outside and play time is limited.

Fact: The snow is falling and the mercury is dropping, but dogs need physical and mental stimulation year-round.  With a little ingenuity and a bit of resourcefulness, you can heighten your pet’s sense of winter fun and frivolity with the following tried-and-true indoor festive games.

Hide-and-seek is a perfect year-round game for dogs (and other pets)  of all ages. Not only does this game work perfectly on rainy and snowy days, but it heightens a dog’s sense of smell in a fun and rewarding manner. This game requires two people initially. One person stays with the dog in a room while the other hides. When ready to be sought, the “hidee” lets out a sound to initiate the game. As your pooch scours room to room, occasionally let out a verbal signal. Once found, praise him like he just won an Olympic medal and reward with a treat. Repeat. One caveat: be sure to remove any glass or breakables out of the way: this game stirs up a dog’s inner puppy! Our friends at BlogPaws have more tips for keeping fit with your pet throughout the winter months.


Myth: Dogs do not need bathing or grooming in the colder winter months.

Fact: Nails may require more frequent trimming since dogs are spending more time indoor on soft surfaces. Dogs should still be bathed, but ensure that they are dry before venturing outside. Some folks even choose a waterless shampoo for winter grooming needs. A pet’s hair does insulate them, so a longer coat and/or a sweater is a safer bet for many dogs in the cold months.

The bottom line is to use common sense but to ask your dog’s veterinarian and/or seek a credible resource for tips on dog winter care. As an additional safeguard, do not let dogs roam or run freely in the winter snow unless they are familiar with recall on command and/or are in a fenced-in area. Snow can be very disorienting for dogs, and rescue groups report that dogs can be easily confused and get lost when running through snow in the winter months. Better to be safe than sorry.


Do you have any tips for dog winter safety that we missed? We’re all ears in the comments section below.

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  1. One thing I’ve learned with our dogs is that they can’t be out in the snow for an hour of play, even if they’re having fun. We limit snow time to 15- 20 minutes at a time. Rodrigo has very sensitive paws and I’ve seen the ice that forms. We use a moisturizer for our dogs paws year around, but especially in the winter – it goes on after their last potty break in the evening. And the cold temperatures aggravate their joint pain so we make sure to keep DGP for Pets on hand just in case.

    Thanks for such a great post. I love these, because I’m always stunned by how much I still have to learn 🙂

  2. Wow! To think that some people really think these things are true! We love winter but it is a season you can’t take lightly and you have to prepare for. The extreme cold this winter is as dangerous as the extreme heat in the summer. Good post to make humans aware!

  3. One thing to add to the “myth” about a dogs’ pads. While the pads may be tougher than the rest of their skin, the skin in the opening between the pads can be extremely sensitive and vulnerable to things like chunks of ice. One of my Treeing Walker Coonhounds went outside just long enough to potty and came in with her foot bleeding. We can only figure she stepped on something sharp (like a piece of ice) that went BETWEEN her pads. It was also very difficult to take care of, since you’re not dealing with a flat surface to be able to bandage. We packed the area between the pads with gauze and wrapped her foot. She was fine by the next day, but it was a bit of a scare.

    Another thing to worry about is ice on surfaces near the cement foundation of your house, or a staircase, etc. A dog can slip and jam their foot into the hard surface. One of my dogs had a toenail break off, and it was UNDER the skin. This was years ago, and I used gauze and self-stick bandaging and took her to the vet as soon as they opened the next morning. The bleeding had stopped, and she wasn’t in pain from it, but it still worried me. Once the nail grew back out, I stopped worrying.

    1. Very very good point, Linda, and I am glad you mentioned this. A dog’s feet are very sensitive contrary to popular belief, and this is very important information.

      I am glad your dogs are okay and recovered from both.

      1. Dogs feet tend to bleed alot, even for a small injury, and many people panic (including my daughter who let my Suki in with her bleeding foot – I though she was dying the way my daughter was screaming about it). As with any medical emergency, it’s best to stay calm.

  4. Great article Carol! Even though my dogs love the snow and can handle cold temperatures better than me, we still are very careful during the winter months.

  5. We love winter as long as the temperatures here don’t go much below 50. I had actually believed some of those myths so thanks for a very informative post

  6. Dakota isn’t out long in the winter (he goes out to pee mostly and doesn’t like winter walks that much, he plays inside), we wipe his paws when he comes in, is that enough? Now I am nervous. Great post!

  7. Fantastic list! As someone who specializes in pet car safety, I really appreciate the first myth. I didn’t know the one about antifreeze absorbing into the skin. Thankfully, our dogs don’t use our garage and are seldom in our driveway. Still, it is good to know to keep an eye out should we walk through a parking lot on one of our walks.

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