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A Guide to Winter Pet Care

blog header winter care

With our winters seeming to grow ever more lengthy, it has never been more important to know how to provide the best care for your pet when the weather grows inclement. Read on for our advice on how to keep your pets healthy and content throughout the winter months.

We can’t, however, think of any tips to stop you falling straight onto your bottom on the ice. Sorry! 

Top tips for winter pet care:

Cats and dogs:

  • Due to their smaller size, pets will succumb to hypothermia quicker than we will. Be sensible when out walking in the cold weather and always dry your pet if they have been walking through snow or become damp.
  • Buy your pet a reflective collar, something useful in   helping drivers to see cats and trying to identify the     location of your dog.
  • Look out for snow, ice or grit becoming impacted in pet’s paws and keep the hair on their paws trimmed.
  • Pets can put on weight during the winter due to decreased activity. Monitor their weight and food intake carefully and try and keep them occupied and active.
  •  Keep your dog on a lead if walking them near a frozen lake/pond/reservoir. NEVER try and be a hero and jump in to rescue them if they go through the ice– don’t be a cautionary tale!
  • Spending more time inside can push your pets into closer relationships than they’d like. Make sure that your pets have space to themselves to avoid stress and can avoid other animals. It’s also important to check your cat litter tray provision– we recommend one per cat PLUS a spare.
  • Animals are happiest when they have a routine (think about how your cat knows EXACTLY when you get home from work). So, even though it might be colder than the inside of your freezer outside, it’s still important to stick to your normal routine and walk the dog.
  • Cats and some forms of wildlife may seek shelter and warmth by crawling into vehicles, especially under the bonnet. Give your car bonnet a couple of bangs before getting in the car to give anything sleeping inside a chance to escape.

Antifreeze poisoning:

One of the biggest dangers facing pets in the winter, antifreeze is highly toxic and inexplicably delicious to pets, especially cats. Even a small quantity can cause fatal organ damage. The first sign of a pet having ingested antifreeze is that they appear ‘drunk’. If you have ANY concerns that your pet may have ingested antifreeze then call your vet straight away and come in for an emergency appointment.

One of the key winter events is, of course, Christmas. Look out for our special article coming soon on how to help your pets enjoy the festive period as much as you do! 

Small furries:

Small mammals such as rabbits and guinea pigs can find themselves rather forgotten in the winter as we huddle indoors. Due to their small size, they are particularly vulnerable to suffering from the effects of cold weather.

  •  If possible, try and move their hutch indoors (if it is to a garage then it needs to be one that does not also house a car– the fumes will kill your pet).
  •  If this is NOT possible then try to insulate their hutch (but make sure you don’t cover it completely as this will affect ventilation) and provide plenty of extra bedding so they can burrow into it.
  •  They may not want to run around outside, but small pets will still need exercise and playtime. Find a safe space for them to stretch their legs inside and buy (or try and design) some interactive feeders to keep them busy and amused whilst they’re back in their hutch.
  •  If your pets are used to the quiet environment of the garden, then finding themselves in the middle of a busy household inside can be rather stressful for them. Make sure that their hutch is placed in a quiet spot and away from both drafts AND radiators.
  •  Check your pet over thoroughly at least twice a day and don’t hesitate to contact your vet if you have any concerns.
  •  Make sure you also check water bottles regularly and be aware that, whilst you may have a cover for the   bottle, this will not stop the spout freezing. You may need to serve the water in a bowl to stop it freezing so quickly.

Wildlife:

Our garden birds need your help to thrive all year round, but never more so than in winter. If you want to feed them then try to give the birds a mix of foods to attract and assist different species:

  • Seed
  • Fat balls
  • Mealworms

Setting your feeders up in front of a window so you watch the birds can bring you hours of entertainment, as well as let you see if crafty squirrels are getting in on the action!

Remember too that hedgehogs and other animals may have decided to seek refuge in your bonfire so have a rummage around before lighting it. 

Good winter pet care is about being sensible and forward planning. If your pet is young, old or suffering from an existing health problem then they are particularly susceptible to extreme weather. Contact your local practice using our online practice finder for further advice. 

Posted December 4, 2015 in Seasonal Care

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