Just like us, the winter months can challenge our pets health and wellbeing. While some pets will bound through the chillier months in full health, we need to be mindful that changes in temperatures and shorter days can have a real impact on the health and happiness of our family pets.
Some pets will grow thicker coats to help them cope with the cold, but older pets, some of the smaller and smooth-coated breeds and small furries are not quite as lucky.
Outdoor exercise will be welcomed by some pets more than others with cats and older pets more inclined to stay inside. Try to encourage movement, play and mental stimulation for those pets who would rather be indoors.
Advice For Dog Owners
- If you have an miniature breed, elderly or smooth-coated dog it may be worth buying them a winter coat to keep them warmer on their walks, as they will feel the cold more than others.
- Make sure you have done at least 10 minutes of on-lead walking before letting your dog off the lead. This will ensure their muscles are properly warmed up before they start racing about.
- When outside, even the younger dogs will feel the cold. Playing games such as tug of war and fetch will help your dog stay warmer.
- Going for walks in a local wood will help because the trees will shelter you from the worst of the weather.
- If you are walking in the dark it is worth investing in a reflective, flashing collar or tag for your dog so that he or she can be seen easily.
- If your dog gets wet on the walk make sure they are properly dried off when they get home. This is especially important with older pets.
- For days when you can’t get outside due to the weather it is important play with your pet to prevent boredom. Using food dispensing activity toys or doing some simple training will help with this.
Advice For Cat Owners
- If your cat goes outside it is worth considering a reflective collar so he or she can be seen more easily
- For cats that do not have a cat flap think about putting a cosy bed in your shed and leaving the shed door or window open for them to access it.
- Although some cats may be very reluctant to leave the house in the winter, exercise and mental stimulation is very important. Use pieces of string, ping-pong balls and/or wind up toys to encourage play and exercise.
- If your cat is spending more time indoors you could also invest in a scratching post or indoor climbing frame and don’t forget the all important litter tray.
Advice for outdoor pets
- Make sure the hutch is in a good state and properly waterproof.
- Hutches should be raised up of the floor to prevent the base becoming damp.
- Large mesh doors can be partially covered with clear perspex, which will allow your pet to see out and the sun to come in but will provide a barrier against the wind and rain – ventilation is still important though so leave several inches gap for this.
- Covering the whole hutch with old blanket/carpet and a tarpaulin/waterproof covering will help keep the heat in an the weather out. During the day leave the front open to ventilate and at night cover the majority of the hutch leaving a smaller area to ventilate. If possible you could move the hutch into a shed.
- Your pets will need a warm, snug bed so provide extra bedding, and a thicker layer of the litter you usually use for the floor. Newspaper can be used to line the floors/walls underneath the bedding.
- Staying warm in the winter takes more energy and so pets spending a lot of time outside, will be burning more calories in order to generate body heat. It may be necessary to increase their calorie intake to account for the cold but please speak to a member of our practice team for more advice on the correct amount to feed your pet,
- It is important to check that your pet has access to fresh clean water and that water bottles and dishes haven’t frozen overnight.
- Remember that exercise will still be important for pets house outside. Encourage mobility and play with balls they can push around and tubes they can run through. It may be necessary to let them exercise indoors if it is too cold outside or if there is a frost or snow on the ground.
With the return of frosty mornings, many of us who have early starts will be reaching for the antifreeze once more. Veterinary practices and charities alike are urging motorists, pet owners and manufacturers to be aware of the hidden dangers to pets from antifreeze poisoning. Unfortunately many animals find the taste of antifreeze very attractive, and ingesting even the smallest amount can lead to kidney failure and death, especially in cats.
It is therefore extremely important to take extra care when using antifreeze, to avoid spillages or leaks, either from bottles or from car radiators. Left over antifreeze and water coolant should also be disposed of responsibly.
One of the main manufacturers of antifreeze has taken steps to try and prevent poisonings occurring. Comma Oil, which supplies antifreeze to companies including Halfords, has added an ingredient to make it unpleasant to swallow the product. However, there is currently no legislation to make such additives a requirement. There is also no law governing how people should dispose of antifreeze when it is used domestically.
If you suspect your pet has come into contact with antifreeze, leaked water coolant you must get them to a vet immediately: