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.

“The Vet Says……” – Antifreeze Poisoning in Cats and Dogs

As this glorious summer comes to an end, no doubt many of you will be making things are ready for winter. Salt for the path, carrot for the snowman’s nose and of course antifreeze for the car. But beware, antifreeze can be harmful to pets so care needs to be taken. Ethylene glycol is a constituent of antifreeze and is toxic to cats causing acute kidney failure. It is sweet tasting and attracts cats, dogs & children for this very reason.

It can also be found in some cosmetics, some plants, radiator coolant, decorative snow globes & air conditioning coolant. Ethylene Glycol  quickly breaks down once ingested and although the kidneys will deal with some of it, the remainder forms Calcium Oxalate Crystals that block the kidneys causing necrosis. It is the metabolic processes within a cat that form the by-products that are highly toxic to cats. As little as a teaspoon can be fatal in cats or two tablespoons for dogs. Ingestion of even the smallest amount should be treated very seriously and requires immediate veterinary treatment. Cats are about four times as sensitive to this poison as dogs and their smaller size adds to the risk they face.

Symptoms

Within 30 minutes to 12 hours of ingestion,  a cat will show the following….

  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Will appear intoxicated, may stumble &  appear dizzy.
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Not eating
  • Excitability

After a time, these symptoms may pass, but your pet is not out of danger as the next stage will set in without treatment. The second stage is usually 12-24 hours after ingestion and symptoms may include

  • Rapid breathing & heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Lethargy

The third stage symptoms include

  • Kidney failure
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Coma

Treatment

It is important that if you can identify the source of the poison, you take it with you or take details of the product including chemical composition. Your vet can do various tests including blood & urine to evaluate toxicity and the extent of damage to the kidneys. The sooner the cat gets treatment, the better it’s prognosis. Early treatment may include inducing vomiting to try and reduce the absorption of the antifreeze.  Further treatment will be to support the kidneys  and sometimes chemicals can be administered to reduce the effect of antifreeze on the kidneys. As well as damage to the kidneys this poison can also affect the central nervous system and it is not possible to reverse this damage.

Prevention

As always, prevention is better than cure. The following simple steps can be taken to reduce the risk…

  • Keep antifreeze sealed and away from pets.
  • If you change the antifreeze on your car, make sure all spills are thoroughly washed away.
  • Do not let your pet drink from puddles.
  • Do not let your pet into your garage or any others.
  • Check your car regularly for leaks.