Winter’s well and truly upon us, and it’s likely that parts of the UK will see snow over the coming days, if you haven’t already. Make sure your pet’s kept safe and warm with our snow care tips.
Even if there is snow on the ground, it’s important that you continue to walk your dog regularly. Here are a few steps you can take to ensure your dog stays warm and safe on their walk.
Not all dogs have a thick enough coat to keep them warm in the snow. If you have a short-haired breed such as a greyhound, lurcher, Staffordshire bull terrier or similar, you should consider a coat to provide an extra layer of insulation.
Always remove it as soon as you get home.
Be extremely careful if you walk your dog through an area where salt and grit may be in the snow - they find it extremely uncomfortable and it can burn their paws if it becomes trapped in the pads.
Your dog may also try to self-clean, and as salt and grit are poisonous this can be very dangerous. Make sure you thoroughly rinse and dry your pet’s paws after winter walks and see your vet immediately if they’ve damaged their pads.
Ice can be just as dangerous to dogs as people as they can slip and slide. If your dog’s off its lead, make sure they don’t run onto frozen rivers or lakes – thin ice can break easily, and you could find yourself trying to rescue a dog.
While this may look comical, eating snow could cause stomach upset and even hypothermia in your dog.
If you suspect your dog has hypothermia, contact your vet immediately while warming them up with blankets or thermal wraps. Make sure you don’t place hot water bottles, microwave bean bags or other heat sources onto your dog.
Anti-freeze has a sweet taste, which makes it very appealing to dogs (and cats). Keep an eye out for signs of vomiting or diarrhoea – and if you think your dog might have been exposed to anti-freeze, contact your vet immediately.
Cats are very independent pets, and you’ll find they’ll make up their own mind about the snow. While many may decide to curl up indoors until the snow has melted, some might choose to explore. Here are a few steps you can take to ensure your adventurous feline stays safe.
While your cat’s indoors, remember to provide a litter tray for them to use in the snowy weather. Water may freeze in the cold, so regularly check they’ve got a fresh supply of water.
Like dogs, cats love the sweet taste of anti-freeze and can experience poisoning. Be careful when you’re topping up the car or adding anti-freeze to water features to prevent damage to the pump. Keep an eye out for signs of vomiting or diarrhoea and contact your vet immediately if you think they may have eaten something they shouldn’t have.
Outdoor cats that have been roaming may suffer from frostbite on their paws, tail and tips of their ears. If you think your cat might have frostbite, speak to your vet immediately.
Check your cat flap regularly to make sure it hasn’t frozen. If you have a cat that refuses to stay in overnight and no cat flap, it may be worth considering whether you can fit a cat flap to a garage or shed and make a blanket or bed available. This will ensure your cat has access to somewhere warm.
Rabbits and guinea pigs are susceptible to the cold, if the temperature drops below freezing or in very cold and snowy weather, you should bring them indoors short-term. A few days inside will not cause them to moult and they should be fine back in their hutch when the temperature has risen.
Please be aware that if you bring your pet inside for the winter and they moult their winter coat, it would be harmful to put them back outdoors when it is very cold.
If you bring do bring them indoors, try and acclimatise them gradually, this will also give them a chance to get used to the additional noise and lights.
For more advice, please visit the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund website.
If bringing your pet inside in the cold and snowy weather isn’t an option, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that their hutch is insulated and they are as warm and comfortable as possible outside.
The ground is always the coldest spot for a hutch, so just taking this small step will help to keep your pet warmer. You should also consider insulating the hutch as well; make sure that any insulation you use is out of reach for nibbling. Make sure the hutch isn’t facing into the wind or snow. If you move the hutch off the ground, make sure that it’s completely secure and won’t fall over.
Extra bedding can help to keep your pet warm. Be aware that if bedding becomes damp, it can easily freeze overnight and achieve the opposite of what you intended. It’s important to always check bedding to ensure it’s dry and doing the job.
Hypothermia is a concern for rabbits and guinea pigs (it’s one of the biggest killers of rabbits in the winter months). If your pet’s shivering, bring them inside and warm them up safely with thermal wraps and blankets. You can place them near a radiator but make sure they never come into direct contact with the heat source.
You can tell if your pet is suffering from hypothermia if they become lethargic and their extremities, such as their ears and paws, look pale and feel cool to the touch. In advanced stages, they will appear to be in a stupor. If untreated, hypothermia can be fatal, so be sure to contact your vet immediately if signs appear.
Be aware that your pets water bottles may freeze in the snow. Ensure your rabbit or guinea pig always has access to fresh water. Additionally, cold rabbits and guinea pigs need more food to keep warm, so keep them well-stocked with high-quality hay.