Wherever you live in the UK taking the proper precautions for your pet can prevent serious illness or injury caused by the current cold weather snap.
Dogs should always be kept on a lead when walked anywhere near frozen ponds or rivers for fear of falling through thin ice.
Never let your dog off the lead when it‘s snowing, especially during a blizzard as they can easily become disorientated, confused, and lost.
Please make sure your dog is microchipped just in case, with details up to date, consider reflective jackets when walking at night, and remember it’s the law to ensure your dog always wears a collar and ID tag.
Wipe-off your pet’s feet and underside after being out in bad weather. Rock salt used on roads can contain toxic antifreeze and other toxic chemicals can be easily ingested by dogs and cats licking their feet.
Because of its 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. So lock all antifreeze away safely as a cat licking a tiny amount off its paws can prove fatal.
Check between your dog’s toes, tail and ears for ice crystals after every walk too as this can cause painful sores, blisters, and bleeding.
Never leave your pet alone in your car in cold weather as your vehicle can quickly convert into a huge metal refrigerator in very cold temperatures; i.e. you’re leaving your dog to freeze to death.
Shorthaired dog breeds (e.g. Dachshunds), older dogs, puppies, 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/she 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, and why not treat your cat to one of those beds that hook over a radiator.
So many cats are lost, run-over, and even killed in these dark winter months so please make sure they’re also microchipped and fitted with an easy-release reflective collar too.
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 snoozing 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 at this difficult time of year; garden centres are perfect for buying fat balls, nuts and other energy-rich wild bird foods.
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 quickly develop fatal pneumonia.
Please think of your four-legged loved ones during this cold spell, and enjoy that pleasant wintery warm cup of cocoa with your warm, happy and healthy pet by your side!