8 Ways to Keep a Senior Dog Safe During Winter

8 Ways to Keep a Senior Dog Safe During Winter

The winter months can be a difficult time for senior dogs. Joint pain, difficulty regulating body temperature, and dulled senses can make cold weather uncomfortable or even dangerous.

With this in mind, here are eight ways to keep an elderly dog safe and happy this winter.

1. Make Sure Your Dog Stays Warm

The first tip is also the most obvious: keep your dog warm during the winter!

Older dogs find it hard to regulate their body temperature during cold weather. This is especially difficult for breeds without thick double coats, but all elderly dogs are affected.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can help your dog stay warm. Turning up the heating is an obvious solution, but you could also consider a heated bed or even a jumper. Just adding some vet bedding or a blanket to the crate can be enough to make your pet more comfortable.

2. Maintain Exercise Levels

Warmth is essential for a senior dog’s wellbeing during winter, but exercise is also important.

Aside from maintaining your dog’s cardiovascular system and muscles, a walk provides mental stimulation which is vital for your pet’s wellbeing. A lack of exercise can also cause your pet’s joints to become stiff and painful.

So, while you don’t want to over-exercise your senior pet, daily exercise is still required.

The only exception is if your dog is very old and can’t handle cold temperatures or outdoor walks. If your dog isn’t capable of walking in cold weather, try to provide indoor mental stimulation instead.

3. Always Stay Close to Your Pet

A senior dog’s senses aren’t as sharp as they once were. This, combined with scent-covering frost or ice, can make it easy for your pet to get lost on a walk.

For this reason, always keep your pet close during the winter months – especially in harsh weather or areas your pet isn’t familiar with.

Ideally, a senior dog should be kept on a leash during the winter, as this eliminates the risk of getting lost and prevents over-exercising.

As always, your pet should be microchipped and have an up-to-date ID tag.

4. Be Aware of Increased Joint Pain

Just like humans, a dog with arthritis may stiffen up during the winter months.

You can manage this by keeping your dog warm and providing a supportive orthopedic bed. There are some excellent orthopedic beds on this list by The Dog Clinic, but whichever you choose make sure the mattress is thick enough to support your pet’s weight. It’s also a good idea to go for a vet check-up during the winter, as medication or natural supplements can reduce inflammation.

Aside from reducing pain directly, it’s important that all family members are aware of your dog’s joint problems. Ask them to give him plenty of rest and to avoid putting pressure on his sore joints.

Additionally, you may want to split your dog’s exercise into two shorter walks in the morning and evening. It’s hard for many senior dogs to resist over-exercising on a long walk, which can make joint pain worse.

5. Care for Your Dog’s Paws

Rock salt, which is spread over pavements and roads during cold weather, can be damaging to your dog’s foot pads and paws. Ice and snow, while less dangerous than rock salt, can also cause irritation and bleeding.

To prevent your pet’s paws drying out, always clean his feet and dry them thoroughly after a walk. If the pavements around your home have rock salt during the winter, a set of dog boots can provide extra protection.

6. Be Extra Cautious During Wet, Cold Weather

A dog’s fur does a great job of keeping your pet at the right temperature most of the time, but it becomes much less effective when wet.

This can make wet weather uncomfortable for any dog – but especially senior canines who already struggle to regulate their body temperature. To keep your pet safe, try to avoid walking in the rain during the winter and dry your pet thoroughly after romping in the snow.

7. Car Interiors Are Dangerous in Winter Too

The message that dogs should never be left in a car during even mild weather is finally getting through – but cold temperatures can also be hazardous.

The problem is that car interiors become cold very quickly during the winter. This can make it impossible for a senior dog to warm up, leading to dangerously low body temperatures. It doesn’t take long for hypothermia to set in during these conditions.

For this reason, never leave your pet alone in a car during the winter – or any other time.

8. Don’t Walk in Extreme Cold

I’ve talked about the importance of maintaining exercise levels, but there are some weather conditions that are simply too dangerous to walk in.

Extreme cold, snowstorms, or just cold weather with severe wind chill, can all cause a senior dog’s body temperature to drop dramatically. Hypothermia and frostbite are both more common in older dogs during the winter, and should be avoided at all costs.

For this reason, avoid walking with a senior dog in extreme weather conditions. Try to use indoor games to provide mental stimulation on days when it’s not possible to spend time outside.

If you suspect your dog is suffering from hypothermia, frostbite or any other medical issue, contact a vet immediately. Your dog’s life may depend on it.


The winter brings new dangers for any dog – but it particularly affects senior canines. Existing health conditions and the effects of aging can turn cold weather into an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous experience.

For this reason, it’s important to give your pet some extra attention during the winter months. By keeping him warm, maintaining a healthy and safe exercise program, and being aware of how cold affects health conditions, you can make winter a more enjoyable experience for your senior pup.

About the Author

Richard CrossRichard Cross is a writer and dog lover who is currently living in the UK. He’s editor of TheDogClinic.com – a website dedicated to improving the lives of dogs through positive reinforcement training and a deeper understanding of canine behavior.




I got my start in dog rescue by using Facebook to help network dogs who were in high kill shelters in San Bernardino, CA.  While that was fulfilling, I really wanted to be more hands-on and interact with the dogs who were being saved.  I wanted to personally see the transformation from a scared shelter dog to a happy and adoptable dog.  So far I have fostered four wonderful dogs for The Rescued Dog and hope to foster many more!  I also love volunteering at the adoption events and watching when a match is made between a dog and their new owners.


My design thesis in my senior year of college revolved around re-designing the animal sheltering system. I spent hours and hours a day volunteering at a handful of shelters. I saw someone bring in a terrified dog as he screamed at shelter staff: “I just don’t want the damn thing anymore..” That was the tipping point for me… Also, this is my favorite quote…ever: “All his life he tried to be a good person. Many times, however, he failed. For after all, he was only human. He wasn’t a dog.”


Life has so much to offer if we remember to look beyond ourselves. I volunteer because it continuously teaches me something new about people, about cooperation, about compassion, and about myself. I have a great passion for animals. We have three rescue dogs that came to us in 2008.  Since then I’ve wanted to work with an origination that helps save dogs and put them in forever, loving homes so when I came across this opportunity with The Rescued Dog to help I jumped at the chance.  I am passionate about their mission to save dogs from high kill shelters and I truly believe that help comes in many forms, volunteering is one way to accomplish what we are supposed to accomplish in this lifetime.


I started volunteering with TRD in 2015. Volunteering has been great. I love dogs, I mean who doesn’t right?! However, I do not own a dog…not yet. I live vicariously through the rescue. If you can’t afford to adopt a dog or don’t have the ideal living situation to have a dog, like me, you can still “scratch your itch,” that’s a great thing about volunteering with us. So, the irony is I have been telling you about how great it would be to adopt a rescued dog and save them from their unfortunate circumstance and put them in a happy and caring home, and in my case, I didn’t know it then, however, the rescue saved me. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to be a part of and for filling my need to be around so many furry friends.


I was introduced to rescue as a child when I met a greyhound rescue organization one night at Balboa Park and convinced my parents to adopt one.  Our family greyhound Bookie and I were best buds for the ten years we had him.  Since then I have been a sucker for rescue dogs.  I am so glad I was introduced to TRD by a friend and fellow foster, and have had a chance to work with some great people and dogs, and found my little buddy, Madison!


I was introduced to The Rescued Dog while working at a local shelter.  I was excited about their mission to save dogs from high-kill shelters & wanted to participate with this mission.  I love working with the TRD team and fosters to get these pups out of the shelter, into a great foster home and finally on to their furr-ever homes!


I have always been a firm believer that doggie cuddles could save the world. So, when my mom said she wanted to start fostering dogs I was very excited. In the short period of time I have been volunteering with The Rescued Dog I realized I want to be an advocate for change. I took on this role not only to push myself but to also be a bigger voice for all of the shelter animals, since they can’t do that on their own.


The bond I have with my dog, Otis who I rescued about 2 years ago,  is that of a family member, a best friend, and a companion. Saving dogs from high kill shelters is a rewarding task, but adding a new member to someone’s family is life changing. Rescued is truly the best breed.


I got involved with rescuing dogs when my own dogs and animal loving kids got a touch older and realized I had a tiny amount of free time to fill! My kids begged for Chihuahuas, Daschunds, Huskys etc….so naturally I thought fostering would be great!  Once I got in, I was hooked and wanted to do more to help shelter dogs find the forever love my own dogs had. In regard to volunteering, I believe that if we all give a little we can accomplish a lot!


10 years ago I took a road trip from Philadelphia to San Diego with my beloved English Bulldog.  As a travel nurse, I was given the opportunity to move across the country, and with working only three days a week, I had time to volunteer with my first passion, rescue dogs.  Through volunteering, I met an amazing group of women who shared my same vision, so we collaborated The Rescue Dog!  I am so proud of our accomplishments and I look forward to continuing to educate and save lives!


I was fostering for the SD Humane Society but was looking for a rescue I could become more involved in. A friend foster failed with TRD so I filled out an application. I feel like I’ve found my calling! There is nothing like getting a dog right out of the shelter and making him feel safe. Now as an adoption coordinator I get to see the rescue through to the end, a great family and a forever home!!


I rescued my first dog in 2010 and started volunteering with a rescue a year later and loved it! After meeting a few amazing friends, it became evident rescue work was more than just a fun hobby. I truly believe the best dogs are rescued dogs and have come to find my true passion in life is in dog rescue. Fostering is one of the most rewarding experiences one can have and I highly recommend it to everyone! I can’t imagine my life without dogs, and thankfully I’ll never have to. I’m so excited to be working with such a fantastic group of people and I can’t wait to see what The Rescued Dog accomplishes!



It is easy to buy a dog from pet stores, online ads, or from dog breeders, but rescuing a shelter dog is definitely more rewarding.  How can you not admire that once sad dog, now all waggy and happy because they’ve been given a second, sometimes third chance at finding their forever home?  The ability of these pups to recognize and embrace their new life never ceases to amaze me.  The Rescued Dog saves dogs from high kill shelters and prepares them to meet and be adopted by a loving family.  TRD fills the corners of my life and it makes me happy to know I’m doing something worthwhile for these sweet pups.  Having rescued – and been rescued – by my own dogs proves that rescued really is the best breed.


My passion for rescuing dogs comes from my great experiences with rescue dogs in my life. I personally have had my life brightened by many great rescue dogs, and I have seen how having pets, and dogs particularly, has improved the lives of my friends and family. For me, the best part of dog rescue is seeing the connection that dogs and people make, and knowing that when we connect the right dogs with the right people, we are improving the lives of everyone involved, both human and canine.