Animals and Cold Weather

Extreme temperatures can be harmful to both people and their animals. Just as heat can be dangerous for pets without proper care, cold weather can also lead to serious health risks, including frostbite and hypothermia.

Care For When It's Cold

According to the American Veterinary Association, “pets' cold tolerance can vary from pet to pet based on their coat, body fat stores, activity level, and health.” Pets with conditions such as arthritis or other health complications are more susceptible to a dip in temperatures. Now is a good time to prepare for cold weather and take precautions to keep your pets warm.

Look out for your animals

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) ask owners to:

  • Keep pets inside during cold weather.
  • If you have outdoor cats, or if you help care for neighborhood cats, provide adequate shelter from cold weather. Ideas for temporary emergency shelters, and permanent winter shelters are available from Alley Cat Allies and Neighborhood Cats.
  • Let longer-haired dogs keep their warm coats, and consider investing in a sweater or coat for short-haired breeds.
  • Keep poisons, including antifreeze and rock salt (commonly used for melting ice), away from animals. Visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for more information.
  • Wipe a dog’s paws to rid them of rock salt that may be spread on outdoor paths or roads.
  • Before starting your vehicle, bang the car hood to warn small critters that may curl up on the engine to keep warm.
  • Leash dogs during snow storms, when dogs may lose their scent and get lost. Make sure your pet’s identification and contact information is up-to-date. Check out Multnomah County Animal Services’ Lost and Found Pet Reports to reunite quickly with a missing pet.

Livestock need protection, too 

  • Provide appropriate shelter from the elements for horses and other livestock. While some livestock may be able to withstand colder temperatures, structured shelter out of the elements is critical to health and wellness. Dry bedding and proper ventilation offer protection.
  • Take proactive steps to address health conditions. Like companion pets, livestock with health conditions are more vulnerable to inclement weather. This includes animals that may be pregnant. Check in with your veterinarian for animals that may need more attention during cold weather. 
  • Ensure access to water — specifically fresh, unfrozen water. 

Multnomah County Animal Services also enforces adequate shelter laws. Adequate shelter defined under Oregon State Statute ORS 167.310 (b) (A-G) is a barn, doghouse or other enclosed structure sufficient to protect a domestic animal from wind, rain, snow or sun that has adequate bedding to protect against cold and dampness and maintained to protect the domestic animal from weather and physical injury. You can read and view examples of adequate and inadequate shelter here

For emergency services for animals in cold weather, or for more information, call: (503) 988-7387

Cold Weather Resources for People

During cold weather, bodies can lose heat fast and a person may not always realize when that happens. When a person's body temperature drops, they may be unable to think clearly or move well.

Emergency Resources

If someone is shivering uncontrollably, or suffering confusion, slurred speech or drowsiness after prolonged exposure to cold, call 9-1-1 and then get them warm and dry.

  • You’ll find the latest news on storms, warming centers and shelters, and learn how to stay safe at home and on the roads at the Multnomah County Care for When It's Cold webpage. 
  • You can find signs and symptoms of hypothermia, Frostbite and some Tips to Stay Warm here. 
  • The Resources for Community Organizations Conducting Outreach webpage includes some basic talking points and questions you can ask.
  • If you often take Trimet and would like the most current information about their operations, visit the Trimet Help Center to learn how to stay up to date. 

Stay Informed:

  • National Weather Service: Check the forecast and plan outdoor activities for the warmest times of day. 
  • Visit for the most up to date information on: 
    • Available resources (including energy assistance), the nearest available shelter, and transportation options.
    • Where you can donate winter weather items to those who need it. 
  • Aging and Disability Resource Connection: 24-hour information and assistance to older people, people with disabilities and caregivers. Call 503-988-3646 or email

Electricity & Power Outages

Avoid walking near downed or low-hanging power lines. If and/or when the lights go out, here's who to call:

Thank you for serving our communities while staying safe and strong.

Community Resources
Field Services
Officer Wammack unloads crates at Multnomah County cold weather shelters

Motoya Nakamura

an MCAS Officer unloads crates and pet supplies at an emergency cold weather shelter.
dog nose and snow