Most animals have enough body hair to be adequately protected during short trips outside—5-10 mins—basically, for bathroom purposes. Cats should be kept indoors if the overnight the temperature is going to be below freezing. If cats cannot or will not come indoors then providing an outdoor shelter that is raised off the ground and protected from the wind will help keep them safe overnight.
Dog breeds with short hair and/or thin body condition should wear a dog sweater/coat while outside. Animals with certain medical conditions or arthritis may struggle with even short exposure to extreme cold.
People often ask me about the risks of taking dogs on long walks or hikes during the winter cold weather. In these cases, my primary concern is for the animal’s feet on the ice and snow, which can cause abrasions on their sensitive pads. As well, salt and other ice-melt chemicals can be harmful to their skin and can be toxic if they lick their paws after exposure. Putting booties on your dog’s feet or applying balm will help protect their feet from damage. Keeping the hair trimmed between their toes can prevent accumulation of ice and snow that can also be harmful over long outings.
Some preventative measures and TLC following time outside will keep you and your pets happy and active during the cold winter months!