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Cold Weather Safety Tips for Traveling With Your Pet

Cold Weather Safety Tips for Traveling With Your Pet Introduction

If you plan to travel with a pet this winter, it’s important to be mindful of cold weather safety issues. Frigid temperatures aren’t pleasant and can be downright dangerous—for you or your pet. Whether you’re considering flying or driving somewhere with your dog or cat, here are some winter travel safety tips to help ensure you reach your destination safely (and warmly!). Cold Weather Safety Tips for Traveling With Your Pet

Make Sure Your Pet Is Fit to Travel

Before any type of trip, ensure your pet is healthy and able to travel. In some cases, it might be best to leave your furry family member at home with a pet sitter, in a boarding kennel, or at your veterinarian’s office. Pets that might not be suitable to travel include:

  • Young pets

  • Older pets

  • Pregnant animals

  • Ill animals

If you’re unsure if your pet is OK for winter travel, consult your veterinarian to get an expert opinion. Animals that travel should be clean, groomed, and follow basic obedience. Additionally, ensure that they’re courteous and not overly disruptive. If you have a pet that barks excessively, that is probably not an ideal animal to bring with you.

Before the Trip

Before you load up the car or head to the airport, there are steps you must take to prepare your fur baby for the journey.

Contact Your Veterinarian

Talk to your veterinarian a few months before your trip and make sure your pet is up to date on all needed vaccinations and preventive care. If you’re traveling to a different part of the country (or world!), your pet may need vaccines or parasite prevention that they haven’t had before. If you’re crossing state borders, there is a good chance your pet will need a current health certificate; international travel requires even more documentation. Airlines often require that a veterinarian sign an acclimation statement that outlines safe travel temperatures for pets that are not traveling in the aircraft cabin with their owners.

Research Where You Stay

Call hotels before you book to ensure they allow pets. Even if cats and dogs are allowed, certain hotels can have weight limits, limitations on the number of animals you can bring, or other restrictions—like not being able to leave your dog unattended in the room. It’s best to call ahead and find out so you aren’t scrambling to find another place to stay the day-of.

Pack for Pet Safety

No matter what time of year you’re traveling, make sure your pet has a collar with up-to-date contact information. If your pet is microchipped, ensure the microchip is registered to you and accurate. Bringing a picture of you and your pet in case you get separated is also advisable.

Before you head to your destination, research and have the names and contact information of a few nearby emergency veterinary hospitals. It might be helpful, if you are driving, to check for emergency veterinarians on your route as well. Ask your veterinarian to print out your pet’s medical records and bring a copy with you in case you need to seek care on your trip.

Ensure Your Car Is Pet-Friendly

Car travel with pets can be dangerous. Unrestrained pets can quickly become a distraction, and when a pet is unrestrained, they are also at greater risk of serious injury in an accident.

When traveling in a car with a pet, you need to properly secure your pet. If you’re driving and your pet climbs into your lap, that could distract you and potentially cause an accident. Here are some recommendations:

  • Use a cat carrier to safely secure a cat for travel.

  • For longer trips, small dogs should also go into a carrier.

  • Small or large pups can use a dog harness or carrier, depending on what product your pet prefers.

  • Larger dogs can fit into a weighted kennel that’s secured with strength-rated anchor straps.

Acclimate your pets to these products prior to travel. Try taking them on short drives and gradually increasing the distance. You don’t want your pet’s first experience in the harness or carrier to be on a three-hour car trip. These test runs are also helpful because they allow you to make sure the car safety products fit your pet comfortably and securely. It is always a good idea to have a roadside emergency kit in your car in case of an emergency. Ensure it has flares, cones, or a flag—anything that will alert other drivers to your presence.

Discuss travel with your veterinarian a few weeks prior to leaving to allow time to try any motion sickness or sedative medications at home. Always test out medications prior to travel.

Bring Products That Will Keep Your Pet Warm

For cold-weather travel, consider providing your pet with an extra layer of warmth before you leave home. A dog sweater or—if your cat is willing—a cat sweater is a great way to help keep your pet cozy. When choosing the right apparel for traveling with a pet, keep travel safety in mind as well. Knitted fabrics can snag or get caught up in a dog seat belt, canine car seat, or cat carrier, so make sure you choose something that will allow your pet to move around and relax safely and comfortably.

Some good pet products for winter travel include:

  • Insulated parkas

  • Quilted blankets

  • Sherpa dog and cat blankets

  • Microwavable bed warmers

  • Self-warming beds

Don’t Forget the Essentials

It is also smart to pack extra pet food; you can use a storage container that allows you to securely store your pet’s food and provides bowls. Having extra food and water is especially important in case you get stuck in traffic, run into bad weather, or have car problems. Extra blankets and towels can be useful, too.

If you’re bringing pet toys, it’s best to secure them so they don’t fly out or around the car in case of an accident. If your pet takes any medication, be sure to bring some extra meds in case you end up staying away longer than planned.

During the Trip

Now you’re ready to hit the road!

Make Lots of Pit Stops

While driving, stop every few hours so you (and your dog!) can take a potty break. When you’re planning your trip, be sure to incorporate those break times into your overall travel time. During those pit stops, check the sidewalks, parking lots, and roads for ice-melting products. These can harm your pet’s paws, and they’re also toxic if ingested. You might want to bring along dog booties to keep your pup’s paws safe in winter. If you don’t have booties, use a product like paw and body wipes after each pit stop to wipe your dog’s paws clean of any ice-melting products.

Never leave your pet unattended at pit stops, as your pet could easily run off or be stolen.

Keep the Stops Speedy

Be aware of how long you spend out in the cold with your pet. Dogs and cats can both suffer from frostbite and hypothermia, which can occur if your pet is exposed to cold temperatures for too long. When temperatures drop under 32°F, small breed dogs, dogs with thin coats, or very young, old, or sick dogs could be in danger if they spend too much time outdoors. Once temperatures drop under 20°F, all pet parents need to be aware that their dogs could develop cold-associated health problems if they are outside for extended periods of time.

At-risk areas for frostbite on cats and dogs include the ears, nose, paws, and tip of the tail. Frostbitten areas of skin initially turn a reddish color and then become gray. To treat frostbite on a dog or frostbite on a cat, give your pet a warm bath (not too hot, around 105°F is good), wrap them up in warm towels, and take them to the nearest veterinary clinic. Don’t rub an area that has frostbite.

Signs of hypothermia in dogs include paleness of skin and strong shivering, which can be followed by listlessness to the point of lethargy. If your pet is exhibiting these symptoms, bring them inside immediately and contact your veterinarian.

When You Arrive

When you reach your destination, provide a comfortable environment for your pet. They will probably want a potty break and a chance to decompress after a long trip—just like we do. Create a safe space for your pet with familiar smells from home. Using your pet’s favorite toys and blankets, set up their own little cozy area. Having a pen or kennel for your pet also allows you to secure them safely if you have to leave them alone.

Q&A Section

Q: What are the best ways to keep my pet safe during winter travel?

A: Ensure your pet is healthy and fit for travel, use appropriate carriers or harnesses in the car, and pack warm clothing and bedding for your pet. Make frequent stops to check on them and avoid prolonged exposure to the cold.

Q: How can I prevent my pet from getting frostbite during travel?

A: Limit your pet’s exposure to cold temperatures, use protective clothing like sweaters or booties, and check for signs of frostbite regularly. Keep stops short and provide a warm environment in the car.

Q: What should I do if my pet shows signs of hypothermia?

A: Immediately bring your pet inside to a warm environment, wrap them in warm towels, and contact your veterinarian. Signs of hypothermia include strong shivering, paleness of skin, and lethargy.

FAQ Section

Q: Can I bring my pet’s regular bed on a road trip?

A: Yes, bringing familiar items like your pet’s regular bed can help them feel more comfortable and reduce stress during the trip. Ensure the bed is secured to prevent it from moving around in the car.

Q: Should I sedate my pet for a long car ride?

A: Only use sedatives if recommended and prescribed by your veterinarian. Test any medications at home before the trip to ensure your pet does not have adverse reactions.

Q: How can I make sure my pet’s microchip information is up to date?

A: Contact the microchip registry or your veterinarian to verify and update your contact information. Having current information is crucial in case you get separated from your pet.

Real-World Example

Consider the case of Bella, a Golden Retriever, and her owner, Mark. Last winter, Mark planned a cross-country road trip and wanted to bring Bella along. He made sure Bella was fit for travel by consulting with his veterinarian and updating all vaccinations. Mark secured Bella in a comfortable dog harness and packed extra blankets, her favorite toys, and enough food and water for the trip. He made frequent stops to let Bella stretch and relieve herself while checking her paws for any ice-melting products. Bella wore a cozy sweater to stay warm, and Mark kept her exposure to the cold minimal. When they arrived, Bella had her own space with familiar items to help her settle in. Mark’s careful planning ensured a safe and enjoyable trip for both of them.

Veterinary Perspective

Veterinarians emphasize the importance of proper preparation and safety measures when traveling with pets in cold weather. "Traveling with pets in winter requires extra precautions. Ensure your pet is fit to travel, pack appropriately, and keep them warm and secure during the journey. Frequent stops and monitoring for signs of frostbite and hypothermia are essential for their well-being."


Traveling with your pet in cold weather can be a safe and enjoyable experience with proper planning and precautions. By ensuring your pet is healthy and fit for travel, packing appropriately, and taking necessary safety measures, you can make the journey comfortable and stress-free for both you and your furry friend. At, we are dedicated to providing you with the information and resources to keep your canine companions healthy and happy during all your adventures.

Cold Weather Safety Tips for Traveling With Your Pet
Cold Weather Safety Tips for Traveling With Your Pet


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