8 winter safety tips for pet owners
Last Updated: 30/11/2023
It’s time to dig out your dog’s winter coat, brush up on your knowledge of antifreeze poisoning in cats and to think about how to keep your rabbits warm… yep, it’s winter!
Keep Your Pets Warm
All dogs will appreciate a warm winter coat or jumper. For some, especially smaller or shorthaired breeds, older dogs or young puppies, a winter coat is a necessity. Remember, just as you wouldn’t want to go out there in only a t-shirt – your dog doesn’t want to go out wearing only their fur! They may also need to acclimatise to the cold weather, so when heading out in the cold, it’s a good idea to gradually increase the time they spend outside.
If your cat is outside for most of the day, make sure they have a warm, dry and draft-free place to shelter or consider a cat flap so they can come in and out as they please. Cats sometimes sleep beneath car bonnets during winter, so it’s worth checking you have no extra passengers on board before setting off in the morning!
Antifreeze poisoning in cats – it’s a real threat
Cats and dogs love the taste of antifreeze but it is highly dangerous to them.
If you use antifreeze or de-icer to defrost your car windows, take care to avoid spilling any and be sure to clean it up thoroughly if you do. It’s also worth storing your antifreeze somewhere that is off limits to your pet and disposing of it safely and responsibly. Antifreeze poisoning in cats is a serious condition. Ingestion can cause vomiting, seizures, depression, difficulty breathing, a lack of coordination and even death – these symptoms can appear in just 30 minutes. So if you think your cat might have had access to antifreeze, contact your vet immediately.
Rabbits and guinea pigs are particularly susceptible to cold weather as they lose heat very quickly. To prevent this, make sure their hutch is nice and warm, well insulated, in a draft-free position with plenty of dry bedding (shredded paper is brilliant) and that there’s no damp.
Water bottles can freeze overnight in extreme conditions; you can prevent this by insulating the bottle with bubble wrap. During really cold periods, you should think about bringing your bunnies indoors where it’s nice and cosy.
Be mindful of salt, grit and snow on the roads, try to avoid letting your dog walk through too much of it and check their paws after a walk. Snow can compact between their toes, which can be painful, and salt can irritate paws and cause harm if licked. A thorough wash and dry of your dog’s feet will help make sure nothing is lodged between their toes; it will also stop your dog ingesting any salt if they try to clean their feet themselves. Keeping the fur between the toes trimmed will also help prevent ice building up.
Consider buying a balm for your dog’s footpads. If it’s really cold, try not to make your walks too long – imagine walking out in the frost in bare feet (nasty!)
Slipping on ice is never fun; it’s worse for our canine friends, especially elderly or arthritic dogs. Try keeping your dog on the lead when you’re near any patches of ice, especially ponds or lakes which can be particularly dangerous at this time of year.
Take care when it snows too, as you never know what is buried beneath it. It could be grit or it could be a slippery surface. We recommend keeping your dog on the lead when you’re walking through snowy pavements or populated areas – wait until they’re on the grass before letting them off.
Cold cars are just as dangerous as hot cars
We mention this a lot during the summer, and with good reason, but the same rule applies during the winter when it’s cold – and temperatures can drop very quickly. It’s not suitable to leave a dog alone in a car – no matter if there’s a window open and no matter what time of year it is!
Try to walk your dog during daylight hours and if you walk when it’s dark, we recommend using reflective gear.
Snowy and foggy weather can affect visibility too, so make sure your dog has good recall. Avoid letting them off the lead if you are unsure and make sure your pet’s microchip details are up to date in case they do get lost.
In extreme weather conditions, it’s best to stay alert and to keep an eye on your pets. Remember that if you’re uncomfortably cold, your pet probably is too!
Keep your pets active
If your dog is spending less time outside, you’ll want to keep them occupied inside with plenty of toys! If they’re doing a lot less exercise, reducing their calorie intake will help prevent them putting on weight.
If you’re concerned about your pet in any way during the cold weather, have a chat with your vet.