How to Help our Pets When the Winter Frost Bites

PDSA offers tips on keeping pets warm during the winter months

With cold weather here, it’s not just us humans that suffer the effects – despite their warm coats, our pets are not immune to the effects of low temperatures. Vet charity PDSA is encouraging pet owners to take these simple steps to keep pets warm and safe.

Old, very young, poorly or thinned-coated pets are more at risk of getting too cold, and if the temperatures really plummet, pets can suffer from frostbite or develop potentially fatal hypothermia if they are exposed to the elements for long periods.

PDSA Vet Nurse, Nina Downing, says: “Taking simple steps can ensure pets are kept safe and healthy over the winter months.”

Nina 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.
  • Walk them during the daylight hours when it’s a bit warmer and if they get wet while out walking, towel dry them well, when you get home.
  • Use a well-fitting, fully lined, non-restrictive waterproof coat when on walks if your dog is very young, old or has thin fur (for example, whippets) to help keep them warm and dry. Avoid walking poorly pets, take them to toilet in the garden, then bring them straight back into the warm.
  • Try and keep your cat indoors on dark, wintery nights, give them toys to play with to keep them occupied and a litter tray so they don’t have to go out. 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 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 area 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.
  • Provide your small pets with additional straw bedding during cold spells and cover the sides of hutches and runs with a 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.
  • Don’t let your small pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs run out of quality eating hay, they eat to keep their digestive systems healthy and their bodies warm.
  • Regularly check water bottles and water bowls throughout the day, making sure they haven’t frozen. Nozzles are particularly susceptible to freezing.

Nina adds: “Shivering is one of the first signs that your pet’s temperature is dropping. However, if your pet’s temperature drops dangerously low, called hypothermia, shivering can stop altogether, so you’ll need to look out for other signs. Pets with hypothermia can be difficult to rouse from sleep and if they’re awake they can be confused, uncoordinated, very drowsy, have cold ears and feet, pale gums, and their heart rate and breathing can slow dangerously. If you think your pet is showing these signs, contact your vet immediately.”

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

pdsa.org.uk/winterhealth

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