Looking After Pets During Winter

Posted on 04 January 2021 by WCF Select

The cold temperatures that winter brings can last for several months. It is important that animals remain happy and warm during this time. We have put together some useful advice on common hazards associated with the cold weather to make looking after your pets during winter easier.

Dog Walking

Some breeds of dogs that have thick coats don’t feel the cold as much as others. You can protect short-coated breeds by putting a dog jumper or coat on them to help them retain heat. Dog's paws can become cold as well, you will notice this if they start to lift their paws or frequently stop during walks. Investing in a good pair of dog boots will help, make sure they have a good sole and velcro straps. Also, it is important to wipe your dog’s paws down after each walk, should they not want to wear foot protection to ensure that any grit or dirt is washed off. 

With the darker nights closing in it is imperative for you and your dog to be safe and be seen. Bright, reflective clothing and flashing light dog collars can be quite effective from standing out in the darkness. If you can, stick to lighted pathways and walk against the traffic if you are on a country road. It is also a good idea to carry a torch on walks where the street lighting isn’t very bright.

Small Animals and Cats

As winter approaches, many cats will likely become lazier and seek warmer places to sleep. Cats will often hide in warm car engines so please check your cars before you start them up. They could get seriously injured or even killed a result of being trapped inside.   

Animals that usually live outside should be moved to a draught free garage or shed or even into your house.

If your pets need to stay outside, ensure that they have extra bedding and that their cages are covered with breathable blankets to help keep them cosy. 

Remember to replace water bowls several times a day if they are usually kept outside to avoid them freezing over.

Hypothermia

Hypothermia is when your body gets cold and can’t warm up. Like humans, animals can get hypothermia too and it is just as dangerous for them as it is for us. If it is left untreated then the organs in their body will start to shut down. 

Hypothermia can be triggered from being outside too long in the cold, this is typical for small, very young or older pets. 

Some symptoms of hypothermia are shivering, paleness, low energy, bad coordination, and sleepiness. If you think your pet has hypothermia you should speak to your vet immediately and follow their advice. For more advice on hypothermia see the PDSA website.

Hazards

Antifreeze and de-icer can be toxic for pets, especially cats as they are attracted to the sweet taste antifreeze has. Keep it safe, out of reach, and ensure to mop up any spillages. 

Icy surfaces can be slippy for dogs and other animals. Take extra care when out on walks in these conditions. It is also a good idea to stay away from frozen lakes and rivers.

For more information on keeping your pets safe during winter, see the RSPCA website.