With the mercury dropping and winter well and truly upon us, we need to think of the effects that the colder temperatures can have, not only on us, but on our pets too. Even covered in fur, plummeting conditions can take their toll on our four-legged family members, and we need to keep in mind the dangers that changes in temperature can pose for them. Here are our top tips for keeping your beloved furries safe this winter.
Winter can bring with it icy conditions, and even snow, which your dog will no doubt love to frolic about in. As much fun as they are having, remember that snow can become trapped in the gaps between their paw-pads and toes, so be sure to keep an eye on their feet during walks. Their pads can become soft and easily traumatised in wet conditions.
Salt or grit that has been laid down on icy roads can act as an irritant if your dog has any small cuts or abrasions on their feet. When you get home, it is a good idea to wipe their feet down with a warm, damp cloth.
Antifreeze has a sweet taste to it which can be irresistible to cats and dogs. Antifreeze can leak from car radiators, or simply be left lying around uncapped in the home or garage, and curious moggies and pooches can be drawn in by its smell. Symptoms of ethylene glycol ingestion include nausea and vomiting, a wobbly or uncoordinated gait, twitching muscles, short, rapid movement of the eyeballs and head tremors. If you suspect your pet has ingested ethylene glycol, take them to your vet<practice finder> immediately, as irreversible damage to the liver and kidneys can occur swiftly, and even be fatal.
It’s a good idea to check under your car (and neighbouring cars) for any leaks, and to make sure you recap the bottle of any products that contain ethylene glycol and place them out of reach of your pet.
If your rabbits or guinea pigs live outside, then it’s important to adequately prepare their hutches for winter. You must provide an area for them that is warm and dry, and that is sheltered from the elements such as wind, rain and snow.
The first thing to do is make sure your hutch is in good condition and is weather-proof. If your hutch requires repairs, it’s a good idea to get these done in the warmer months. Check the inside of your hutch for any signs of leakage, such as water stains or moisture build-up. Water stains near the top of the hutch may indicate a leaky roof or walls, whereas those near the bottom may point to damp rising up from the base of the hutch.
To keep the hutch warm, insulated and reduce draughts, place a large thick blanket or old carpet over a good proportion of it (particularly the bedding area) leaving a small area up one end free for ventilation. To protect the hutch from rain and snow, it’s best to secure some plastic sheeting or tarpaulin over the top of the blanket. You can also semi-cover large mesh areas with some thick Perspex or plastic sheeting. This will provide your small furries with some protection from the elements whilst still allowing daylight in.
It’s a good idea to raise your hutch off the ground with bricks to allow air to circulate underneath it and stop it from getting too damp in wet conditions. This will help to keep your pets warm and dry.
Finally, don’t forget to regularly check their water supply. If temperatures are below freezing, then their water will turn to ice and be undrinkable! Consider buying water bottle insulators to ensure your fluffies are getting all the fluids they need.
In the winter, just like humans, animals’ joints and bones can stiffen up. We see this particularly in older pets. So what can we do to make them more comfortable during the colder months?
Although it’s probably the last thing we (and they!) feel like doing, it’s important to still exercise your pet in the winter. Sitting or lying around stationary all day can compound feelings of stiffness in the joints. Some light movement will help to loosen them up and keep joint pain at bay.
If your pet is arthritic, they may need medication to help ease their symptoms. Your local vet will be able to advise what is best for your particular pet and their circumstances.
Heat therapy can be beneficial for sore joints. Putting a jumper on your pet can help to insulate them from the worst of the cold temperatures just as it does for us. There are also some heating pads on the market that are specifically designed for dogs with arthritis. They can be attached to hips and troublesome joints with Velcro straps. Speak to your vet about the different options available.
Finally, try to keep your pet at a healthy weight year-round. Gaining extra pounds will only put unnecessary stress and strain on their joints. The more overweight your pet becomes, the less inclined they will be to exercise, which will lead to increased weight gain, and the beginning of a vicious cycle. Keep on top of your pet’s weight by feeding them a low-fat, balanced diet and giving them plenty of exercise. This will help their joints stay supple and arthritis-free in later years.
If you require further explanation or advice on any of our winter tips, your local Medivet vet will be only too happy to help! Use our online practice finder to get in touch.
Posted December 25, 2015 in Seasonal Care