As temperatures plummet and Storm Juliette wreaks havoc across the UK, PDSA, the UK’s leading vet charity, is urging pet owners to take extra care of their four-legged friends. While pets may have fur coats to keep them warm, they still need a little extra TLC to ensure they stay safe and snug as the winter frost begins to bite. Whether you have a dog, cat, or a smaller pet, it’s important to be prepared for whatever the weather may bring. Here are PDSA’s top tips for keeping your furry family members safe and sound this winter.
Keeping Safe Outdoors
The winter season can present hazards for all pets, so owners must be extra cautious when venturing outside. Here are several common winter hazards to watch out for:
Salt and Grit – This is a common sight on roads and pavements during the winter months. Salt can irritate your pet’s paws, so be sure to wash them once you return home. Apply a thin layer of paw butter or another pet-safe skin cream to your dog’s pads to help moisturise them and prevent cracking.
Snowy Paws – When snow builds up on dogs’ paws, it can cause discomfort. Keep hair between their pads trimmed, so there’s less hair for snow to gather on. Check your dog’s paws when you return home from a walk, and soak off any snow in warm water.
Antifreeze and De-icer – While antifreeze is used to stop cars from icing up in the winter, it’s incredibly toxic for animals and can be fatal if ingested. Contact your vet for immediate treatment if you suspect your pet has licked some. Keep antifreeze out of reach and clean up any spills thoroughly.
Provide Shelter – While it’s best to keep dogs and cats indoors on very wintry nights, ensure they have access to a warm shelter, especially if they’re determined to explore the great outdoors. Check your car before you start it, and knock on the bonnet to ensure no animals are sheltering there.
Storms and Floods – Take a look at our stormy weather advice to prepare for bad weather over winter.
Poisonous Plants – Keep festive favourites like holly, ivy, and poinsettia out of your pet’s reach, as they’re toxic if ingested.
Dogs still love going on adventures during the colder months, so here are some tips to ensure they stay safe while exploring the great outdoors in winter:
Take Precautions During Walks – LED collars, hi-vis leads and coats, and a torch are great for lighting the way and being visible. Some shorter-haired breeds, puppies, and older dogs may need extra help staying warm and would benefit from wearing a coat in colder weather.
Staying Active – Ensure your pet stays active and doesn’t become a winter couch potato! Providing your pet with vital exercise is essential for their physical and mental well-being. If the weather is unsuitable, ensure they have some toys to keep them entertained.
Watch Your Step – Always be extra careful and watch your step on walks because icy surfaces can be just as slippery for our pets. Keep your dog on a lead to prevent them from running off and jumping into frozen ponds, which can be dangerous.
Keeping Your Pet Cosy Indoors
Winter is the perfect time for pets to snuggle up inside, but it’s important to take extra care to keep them warm and cosy:
Provide Extra Comfy Spaces – Your cat or dog may appreciate a few extra comfy spaces to curl up in around the house or a few extra blankets for their bed to help them stay cosy and warm. Raise beds off the floor, so they’re not sitting in a cold draught.
Enrichment Activities – It’s essential to keep your pets active, whatever the weather. Make sure you engage in some enrichment activities with your pet to keep their minds active even if they can’t go out.
Take Good Care of Your Older Pets – Pets often develop stiff joints as they age, and colder weather can make this worse. Take good care of your older pet’s joints, especially in the cold.
Caring for Smaller Pets
Small pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and ferrets need extra care in winter. Here are some ways to keep them warm and safe:
Bring your pets indoors – If your pets usually live outdoors, bring them inside a sheltered area, such as a shed or car-free garage.
Extra Bedding – All small pets should have extra bedding in winter, so make sure they have plenty and that it’s dry and deep enough for them to snuggle up in.
Insulate their home – Drape a blanket or piece of carpet over the open mesh door of their living quarters to keep out strong winds and driving rain or snow. You can also insulate outside walls with newspapers covered with plastic sheeting, but make sure this doesn’t obstruct the ventilation.
Provide Fresh Water – Check water bottles and nozzles regularly in very cold weather to ensure they aren’t frozen. Provide other sources of water, such as a water bowl.
Watch for Hypothermia – If your pets get too cold, they can develop hypothermia. Keep them warm and provide a warm and cosy environment to avoid this.
The winter season can present several hazards for pets, including salt and grit, antifreeze, and poisonous plants. It’s essential that pet owners take extra care of their pets by providing a warm shelter, extra comfy spaces, and plenty of bedding inside. Pet owners should allow their pets exercise and engage in enrichment activities, especially when going outside isn’t an option. These tips can help pet owners ensure their furry family members stay safe, healthy, and comfortable during the colder months.