Keeping Pets Happy When It’s Cold Outside

PDSA offers tips on keeping pets warm during the winter months

When the cold snap bites, it’s not just us humans that suffer the effects – our pets feel it too. Vet charity PDSA is encouraging pet owners to take the easy steps needed to keep pets warm and safe.

Despite their warm coats, our furry friends are not immune to the effects of low temperatures. Old, very young or thinner-coated pets may be more at risk of getting too cold, and if the temperatures really plummet, pets can suffer frost bite or develop potentially fatal hypothermia if they are exposed to the elements for long periods.

PDSA Vet Nurse, Joanne Wright, says: “Taking simple precautions can ensure pets are kept safe and healthy over the winter months.”

Joanne has provided her top tips on keeping pets warm:

  • Make sure all pets always have access to a warm, dry, sheltered area during cold weather.
  • Take your dog on regular short walks rather than one long walk. If you can, walk them during the daylight hours when it’s a bit warmer and if they get wet while out walking, towel dry them when you get home.
  • Consider a well-fitting, non-restrictive waterproof coat when on walks if your dog is very young, old or has thin fur to help keep them warm and dry.
  • Try and keep your cat indoors on dark, wintery nights, giving them toys to play with to keep them occupied. If they prefer to go outside, make sure they can get back inside home or have access to a warm, sheltered area if the temperature plummets.
  • Never leave a pet unattended in a car, caravan or an unheated conservatory – the temperature can fall very quickly, risking hypothermia.
  • Never leave pets unattended outside in very cold weather.
  • Ice and snow can be painful if it gets compacted and stuck between the pads of your pet’s paws so try to keep the hair in between their pads trimmed and check their paws when they come back inside. Using a paw butter can help prevent sore cracked pads.
  • Move rabbits and guinea pigs to a warm and sheltered spot such as a shed or car-free garage, making sure they’re protected from drafts and exhaust fumes. They should still have access to natural light, plenty of room and be given regular access to an outside run for exercise and stimulation.
  • Provide your small pets with additional straw bedding during cold spells and cover the sides of hutches and runs with a duvet or thick blanket to help keep the cold out. You’ll need to make sure it’s out of reach from your pet and can’t be nibbled and that there’s still a good air-flow at the front of the hutch.
  • Regularly check water bottles and water bowls haven’t frozen, if temperatures dip. Nozzles are particularly susceptible to freezing.

A wet or dirty rabbit hutch can be a very uncomfortable place for rabbits to live, if they’re dirty they never get dry, so the rabbits will be damp and cold. This can cause breathing complications as well as damaged skin and sores, which can potentially lead to infections. Although it’s rare during the winter months a dirty hutch can increase the risk of potentially deadly disease flystrike throughout the winter, so check their bottoms for fly eggs or maggots and keep their hutches clean and dry.

A sign of a dangerously low temperature, also known as hypothermia, is shivering, though not all pets will show this sign and it can stop if their temperature falls even lower. Pets with hypothermia can also become confused, uncoordinated, very sleepy, have cold ears and feet, pale gums, and their heart rate and breathing may also slow dangerously in severe cases. If you think your pet is showing signs of hypothermia, contact your vet straight away.

For more information on keeping your pet safe and warm during January, visit:

pdsa.org.uk/winterhealth

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