Looking after your pets during the winter months.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost nipping at your nose. We are heading towards winter and it’s the time of year where you will be wearing your big coat, plus a bobble hat and scarf to keep warm.  Even though your pets are covered in fur, they will need a bit of help to keep warm too -especially if they are very young or very old. Also, dogs such as whippets, greyhounds and other dogs with low body fat or thin coats will need help keeping out the cold.

Below are a few hints and tips on looking after your pet’s health during the winter months.

Firstly, we recommend you read our blog about the dangers of anti-freeze poisoning. Click here to take a look. Antifreeze can be harmful to pets so care needs to be taken. Ethylene glycol is a constituent of antifreeze and is toxic causing acute kidney failure. It is sweet tasting and attracts cats, dogs & children for this very reason. 

If you have a dog, no matter the weather, it will still need a walk. It’s worthwhile remembering that if you are cold there is a good chance your dog will be cold too.  If there is a lot of snow , remember that the smaller breeds of dogs that are trudging belly deep through the snow will feel the effects quicker than a larger dog.  Another thing to be careful of is hidden dangers below the snow. There could be broken glass, barbed wire or other sharp objects. Try and stick to well know routes to minimise the risk of your dog getting injured.

Ice Balls – Now this isn’t a big danger but if not checked it can cause discomfort and pain. If you have been out with your dog in the snow, check their feet for ice or compacted snow.

If it’s icy it may not be a good idea to throw balls or sticks as your dog may slip and injure itself. Take it easy unless you know the ground is ok to run around on.

Every year there are a number of reports where dogs fall through thin ice and either drown or suffer from hypothermia. If you walk your dog near large ponds or lakes, do not let them go onto the ice as you will not be able to tell how thick or safe it is.                                                                                                                                

If you are out walking your dog in the dark, you will be seen a lot easier if both you & your dog are wearing something reflective.

Don’t leave a dog or a cat outside for long periods without providing access to shelter and warmth.  As they could  suffer from hypothermia and frostbite. The most common cause of hypothermia is when a pet has been outside  for too long in freezing rain or snow.

During the summer months you are advised not to leave pets in your car as they could suffer from heatstroke.  When it’s cold you should not to leave your pets in the car as it can get very cold.

Could you spot the signs of hypothermia?   In severe casesyour pet might not show typical signs such as shivering, but it may become lethargic, disorientated and will have a slow heart rate and problems breathing.  Also, it will have cold ears and feet.  If you believe your animal may have hypothermia you should dry off your pet as quickly as possible (if it’s wet), wrap it up in warm towels together with a coveredhot water bottle to help raise the body temperature. Also, contact your vet for advice.

If you have an older cat or dog, it’s a good idea to keep them away from cold drafts and make sure they have a warm bed especially if they have arthritis.  If they are going out for walks, older dogs will appreciate a warm jacket when they go outside.  If you are going out and leaving your pet at home make sure the house is warm. Older pets will feel the cold in their joints and will be uncomfortable.

Cats are happy to sit inside and keep warm, however, if you cat normally goes to the toilet outside they may have second thoughts about going out in the cold and will hold onto their urine to the point where it is dangerous.  By holding it in cats may run the risk of infections and blockages.  To make it easier for them, leave a litter tray out for their use. If that doesn’t work you will have to be cruel to be kind and take them outside to do their business.

Small Furries

If you keep guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits, they can be kept outside but it’s advisable to move them indoors. Keep them in a warm shed or a car-less garage (fumes from the exhaust can be harmful to your pets)

Cover the hutch at night with a blanket or an old piece of carpet making sure it is still well ventilated. Also, add some extra bedding for warmth.  Remember to keep an eye on your pet’s water bottle to make sure it isn’t frozen.

Fish

If you have a pond that contains fish and it freezes over it is important to remember to put a hole in the ice. By doing this it releases the toxic metabolic by-products such as carbon dioxide.  Do not break the ice by force as this could cause distress to the fish.  Use a saucepan of hot water to gently melt a hole in the ice. Do not tip boiling water straight onto the pond as this could harm the fish.

A lot of the tips we have given are common sense but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded.  If you have any questions about pet care please call the clinic or leave a message on our Facebook page and someone will reply to you as soon as they can.