If your dog or cat is an outside only pet, most breeds will develop a very good winter coat of their own. These outdoor pets need to be provided a dry, den-like house where they can get out of the wind and rain. They will need something with a dry floor and soft bedding that they can nestle deeply into for insulation like straw, pine or cedar shavings, or old blankets. A combination of bedding with cedar shavings has the added benefit of repelling insect pests like fleas, lice, and ticks. Make sure the wind can’t drive the rain into their cozy home because wet bedding can lead to upper respiratory infections and hypothermia. The pet house that you choose should be weather-tight, but still, have some sort of ventilation.
Remember that wet and matted hair will trap dirt and debris and can lead to infections of the skin, so be careful to keep your pet well groomed. If your pet lives in your garage or shop, make sure they have a soft insulating layer between them and the cement slab. Older pets will benefit from egg crate foam beds and pet safe heating pads or heat lamps, which help keep their old joints from stiffening up in winter.
Be especially aware of the needs of your short or fine-haired pets. Many breeds were developed in warmer climates and simply lack the ability to “coat-up” for our winters. These pets are indoor pets and can’t be left outdoors without protection. Even the pets that only spend nights inside won’t necessarily have a full enough winter coat to deal with sudden drops of temperature, especially if there is precipitation and wind. Provide your pet with a dog door into your garage or mudroom. When you are out walking in cold weather there are coats, slickers, and even full body suits for your pooch to help keep them dry and warm. Even an old sweatshirt can make a nice winter coat for your pet.