Whether you live up in the Scottish Highlands or down on Brighton Beach, taking the proper precautions for your pet can prevent illness or injury due to the current cold weather.
Dogs should always be kept on a lead when walked anywhere near frozen ponds or rivers for fear of falling through thin ice; there have already been several worrying reports of this happening in 2011 as well as some very heroic efforts to rescue them.
Try not to let your dog off the lead when it‘s snowing, especially during a blizzard. Dogs can easily become disorientated, confused and lost. Please make sure your dog is microchipped, its details are up to date, and remember it’s the law to ensure your dog always wears a collar and ID tag.
Wipe-off your dog’s feet and underside after a walk in bad weather. Road salt as well as toxic antifreeze and other toxic chemicals can be easily ingested by dogs and cats licking their feet. Because it has a sweet taste, dogs and cats often mistake antifreeze for a treat and lap it up; but the chemicals can lead to death by kidney failure in most cases of antifreeze ingestion.
Check between your dog’s toes, tail and ears for ice crystals after every walk too as this can cause painful sores and bleeding.
Never leave your pet alone in the car in cold weather as your vehicle can quickly convert into a huge metal refrigerator in very cold temperatures. A dog left in a car in these temperatures has essentially been left to freeze to death; keep your dog safe and out of your car for prolonged periods of time.
Shorthaired dog breeds, older dogs, and patients undergoing immune-compromising treatments, e.g. chemotherapy, may benefit from a practical coat or woollen sweater – and never shave your dog down to the skin in cold weather.
When you bath your dog in winter, make sure he is completely dry before venturing back outside.
Puppies and old dogs are not usually big fans of the cold so perhaps consider restricting outdoor exercise when it’s freezing; trips to do their toilet are all that is usually required.
Dogs spending a lot of time outside in the cold weather may benefit from some extra food to compensate for the calories used in keeping warm. Dogs kennelled outside should be brought inside on very cold nights.
Make sure there is a warm place inside for your dog to sleep, i.e. off the floor on some comfortable bedding/newspaper and well-away from drafts.
So many cats are run-over and killed, or go lost in these dark winter months so please make sure they’re also chipped and fitted with an easy-release reflective collar.
Some outdoor cats have been known to fall fast-asleep under a car bonnet on a toasty warm engine. The fan belt could injure or kill the cat when the car is started – so it is always a good idea to bang loudly on the bonnet of any car parked outside before starting it, to give any cats a chance to escape!
Although dogs and cats can suffer many risks during the winter months, let’s not forget our smaller furry friends, including small wildlife who will also be searching for a warm shelter, food and clean unfrozen water.
Rabbits and guinea pigs should be given plenty of dry hay, and if the weather is really severe, brought inside at night. Their hutches should face away from the wind and be completely waterproof, because both species are very susceptible to damp conditions and can develop fatal pneumonia.
Be aware of your four-legged loved ones during this cold snap, please heed these precautions and enjoy a pleasant winter with a cup of warm cocoa, and a warm, happy and healthy pet by your side!