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With the recent drop in temperature it’s important that not only you wrap up warm and take precautions when outside but that your pets stay happy and safe too.

Here are some tips for pet owners during the winter season.

Coats – whilst some dog breeds have a double coat and or are more suited to low temperatures, just because your pet has a fur coat doesn’t mean he won’t feel the cold. Small dogs or dogs with little to no hair should have some sort of protective gear such as sweaters or jackets for protection against the cold.  If your dog doesn’t like wearing clothing, then better to keep them out of the cold and provide them with mental and physical stimulation through play instead.  That way you can make time to introduce protective clothing in a positive way, systematic way, always working at their pace.  Check out “Playing With Your Dog” by Hanne Grice for great game ideas for all ages.

Water & food – ensure food and water is provided inside the home to prevent it from freezing.  Keep the water at room temperature as pet’s can easily become dehydrated in winter, and avoid letting them drink water from bowls outside; the frigid temperatures could cause stomach upsets and even hypothermia.  Pets can easily dehydrate and small pet drinking dispensers quickly freeze over – check these in the morning and early evenings to ensure they have ready access to clean water.  

Cold – pets should not be left outside or walked for long periods of time.  Even half an hour in freezing temperatures can cause problems and your pet’s ears, feet and tail are highly susceptible to frostbite, so limit his time outdoors.  Bring small animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs indoors or house in a warm ventilated out-building such as a shed or garage to reduce exposure to harsh temperatures.  Avoid placing indoor hutches near radiators, windows or garage doors.

Ice and feet – when walking your dog near ice or frozen puddles/ponds/canals/lakes, keep them close to you and on the lead.  This ensures your dog cannot run across the ice, avoids his feet getting accidentally cut on the ice and helps prevent falls on the ice which may lead to injury for you and your dog.  Always wash your dog’s paws after a winter walk to remove any salt, grit or other substances from the roads/pavements that can irritate the skin and cause stomach upset should your four-legged friend lick their paws.  

Shaking – if your pet is out in the cold and begins shaking or shivering, get him back to warm shelter as soon as possible. Signs of hypothermia include shaking/violent shivering, slow and shallow respiration, a slower heart rate, gums may appear pale or blue.  The pet may also appear listless.  Call your vet immediately.

Eating snow/ground matter – avoid letting your pet eat snow or anything else on the ground.  Dangerous objects or chemicals may be hidden in the snow or ice.  Eating snow can also cause stomach upsets and can even led to hypothermia.  

Antifreeze – make sure you keep antifreeze for your car out of your pets reach.  While many solutions have been updated, every year a number of animals are accidentally poisoned by it.  The substance tastes sweet to pets, which encourages them to drink.  As a precaution, do not allow your pet to drink from any puddles, particularly when out on a walk as it may contain antifreeze, car oil or other substances that could be harmful to your pet.  Supervise your pet while outside (even in the garden) – if you suspect your pet has had any exposure to antifreeze or other potentially toxic substances, call your vet immediately.

Fire – if you use an indoor or outdoor fireplace, keep a safety guard around it in order to protect your pet from the flames and soot.  Never leave a fire unattended nor let your pet venture close to the fire even hours after it has died down to reduce the risk of burns or any sharp items/wood remaining in and around the area.

Shelter/bedding – always ensure your pet has adequate shelter where it will be warm and dry.  His bed shouldn’t be in a draughty area and bedding, suitable for your pet’s species, should be kept dry.  Provide extra blankets when temperatures dip below freezing for cats and dogs, ensure hutches are well insulated with hay and other protective pet coverings.

Grooming – ice and snow can get easily caught up in the fur of your pet.  Regular grooming will help avoid matter being caught in their coat and a well-groomed coat means a better insulating coat for your pet.

In the car – never leave your pet alone in a vehicle.  There is a risk that if the engine is off, this could lead to hypothermia and or risk of theft.  If the engine is left running, he may be overcome with carbon monoxide fumes.  Better to leave your dog at home in the warm.  

Follow these tips to keep your pet healthy, happy and safe this winter.

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