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Looking after your pets in winter

fluffy golden dog in the snow

Pets feel the cold just like we do, even under all that fur, so it’s important to make sure they are well cared for as the temperatures drop. When the weather is cold it might be necessary to make a few lifestyle changes to accommodate your pets’ additional needs as they try to keep warm and comfortable.

Firstly, make sure your pet has a nice warm bed to sleep in and snuggle into during the day or night. If your pet sleeps in a hallway and there’s a bit of a breeze slipping under the doors, invest in a draught-excluder to make sure they don’t spend the night shivering. Cats occasionally go missing in the winter when they’re off on the hunt for a warm spot to curl up in. Make sure your cat is microchipped so they can be easily located if they wander too far. A common hiding place for cats in the cold is underneath cars so it’s good practice to bang on your bonnet in the mornings before starting your engine.

If you have outside pets that are kept in a hutch, like rabbits or guinea pigs, you might want to consider moving them into a conservatory, shed or garage while the weather is cold. If they have to stay outside, try and position their hutch to face away from the wind and cover the front with an old blanket to keep the heat in. You’ll also need to keep an eye on their water bottles to make sure they don’t freeze up.

fluffy dog in snow

While your pets might be a bit more reluctant to leave the house in winter, it’s important that they still get some exercise. If you go out walking in the dark, be sure to wear reflective clothing so you can be clearly seen. A flashing collar or reflective lead will help your pet get noticed in the dark too. Short-haired dogs may need an extra layer in the winter like a cosy jumper or coat to keep the heat in. Take notice of their feet too, if your dog starts whining or lifting their paws up they may need something extra to keep their feet warm too.

When it gets really cold, if the pavements are a little icy, you’ll need to wash your dog’s feet when you get home as any salt or grit that has been put down can irritate their paws. If it snows, it’s worth trimming the hair around their paws to prevent painful ice balls from forming. Keep your dog on a lead if you walk near any lakes or ponds that may be frozen and if they are unfortunate enough to fall in, remember that most dogs are strong swimmers and don’t be tempted to jump in after them.

If you’ve got a cat who usually spends a lot of time outside, you may find that they suddenly require an indoor litter tray if the temperature drops too low. Also be aware that cat flaps are easily blocked in snowfall so make sure these are checked regularly so your cat can still come and go as it needs to. Keep an eye out for signs of frostbite, hypothermia and antifreeze poisoning too.

By following these steps, you and your pets can get through winter while staying safe and comfortable in the lower temperatures.