With temperatures plummeting below freezing and the wrath of Storm Emma taking hold, it’s important to keep our pets safe and warm this Winter. Pets kept outdoors such as rabbits and guinea pigs, dogs that are kennelled and outdoor cats are particularly vulnerable - make sure to check on them regularly throughout the day and consider bringing them indoors overnight or if the weather turns.
Pets in the Garden:
Outdoor kennels and hutches can be insulated with old blankets or duvets covered with waterproof tarpaulin and by attaching Perspex to the mesh - make sure you leave a gap for ventilation. You could even consider bringing hutches into a shed or garage which can be lined for extra protection.
Bedding should be kept dry - nothing is warm if it’s wet! A deep layer of shavings and a thick bundle of straw inside a cardboard box makes a cosy house. Snuggle safe heat pads wrapped in a protective cover can provide that extra cosiness overnight. Snuggle safes can be purchased through us by calling the practice. Of course, there’s nothing better than snuggling up to your favourite companion to keep warm and we’d always recommend that bunnies are kept in pairs where possible.
Always make sure there is a fresh, clean supply of water. Bowls and bottles can freeze quickly and need to be thawed regularly. Bubble wrap, thermal socks or special covers can be used to insulate bottles. Bowls should be raised from the ground and placed on a snuggle safe to prevent them freezing over. Snuggle safes can be purchased from the practice – just give us a call.
Your cat should always have somewhere warm and dry to shelter if they like to venture outside and consider keeping them indoors if the weather is extremely cold, wet, or windy. Keep antifreeze (ethylene glycol) sealed and out of your cat’s reach, this toxic chemical can taste sweet and syrupy to animals and if ingested can be deadly. The signs of poisoning can include loss of balance, vomiting and lethargy and if you are worried your pet has ingested some, call the clinic immediately.
Stray and feral cats are at risk of exposure, you can provide a place to hide from the bitter wind in a shed or makeshift shelter. A cardboard box elevated off the ground, lined with newspaper and straw with the roof covered in plastic (a black bag will do) is better than no shelter at all! Plastic boxes with a lid (like old recycling boxes) can also be easily converted into cosy shelters by cutting out a doorway and lining well with blankets or straw for snuggliness.
Whilst out walking, keep your pooches cosy with a dog coat or jumper, especially if they are a short-haired breed, but make sure to remove them if they become wet. Check your dog's paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads. Wash your dog’s feet and underbelly at the end of a walk to remove any road salt or antifreeze which can cause irritation and becomes toxic if ingested. Washing will also remove any ice balls that have accumulated between their toes. When walking your dog, avoid frozen ponds and lakes to keep them safe as the ice may not be as stable as it looks!
Just like people, cold weather tolerance can vary from pet to pet. Elderly pets and those with on-going illnesses can struggle to control their body temperatures (thermoregulate) and are more susceptible to the cold. Arthritic pets can also struggle as joints can become extra creaky and sore in lower temperatures and they may find the ice slippery to walk on. If you think your pet seems more uncomfortable during the cold weather, call the clinic to make an appointment to see one of our vets for more advice. Walkies little and often is always key with older or poorly pets that may be struggling. Alternatively, why not try some enrichment strategies such as feeding from a Kong, a snuffle mat or a forage box for those dogs that would prefer to stay indoors during a cold spell but still need some mental stimulation.
And remember, Spring is just around the corner! Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant Hapus – Happy St. David’s Day!