With the onset of wintry weather, however cold it gets should never prevent us from sharing lots of fun with our families, both two and four legged members; so it's important to be fully prepared for any hazards that come with it. Here's some advice to help keep your pets warm, happy, and safe from danger during these next few chilly months.
With dogs it's important to think about breed, with short-coated canines like greyhounds, Dobermans, and Chihuahuas often struggling to cope with extremely low outdoor temperatures. Make sure they're provided with a cosy jumper or coat if required, preferably with reflective strips. Ideally humans should wear bright clothing too thus being easily seen by motorists on dark evenings. Older and younger animals, plus pets undergoing and treatment e.g. chemotherapy, may also require extra help when out in freezing temperatures.
After frolicking outside in the snow, always check and clean your pets' paws for cracks (applying Vaseline if necessary), cuts, and any foreign debris, carefully removing ice crystals and potentially toxic road grit (containing salt and anti-freeze) too. Ice-blisters are often very painful and can easily become infected. Keep hairs around pads well-trimmed to prevent ice and snow accumulating; and brush your dog's coat thoroughly combing out knots, as matted hair is less efficient at keeping out snow and rain, and won't insulate your dog as well.
Dogs still need regular exercise throughout winter so be extra careful in slippery conditions. If you're elderly perhaps ask for help from a friend, relative, or reputable dog walker (or offer if you know someone elderly with a dog), and spend more time playing games indoors to prevent them getting bored or frustrated. Don't forget to keep dogs on leads near frozen ponds or lakes, preferably staying well-away from either.
Post-bathing your pet always make sure they're completely dry before letting him or her outside. It's important for your pets to eat well during colder months to keep up energy and warmth; however an indoor cat doesn't need more food over the winter. If your dog is a lot less active avoid overfeeding by cutting back on daily amounts. Also if your dog or cat appears stiffer and lethargic first thing in the morning during the colder months then ask your vet for advice on arthritis as your pet may be in pain.
Cat lovers will already know most cats prefer to snuggle up inside during winter months, usually on or near the closest source of heat, but if your feline is the outdoor, adventurous type then make sure there's always warm shelter available; keeping them safe inside when extremely cold. Most cats will love one of those special beds that hooks over your radiator.
Did you know that outdoor cats will sometimes crawl into warm car engines? So please bang loudly on bonnets before starting engines as cats can be seriously injured or even killed if they don't escape in time. Cats out in snow may become disorientated and end up trapped somewhere they shouldn't be without food or water. Cats usually going to the toilet outside may also benefit from an indoor litter tray, especially with snow on the ground; make sure deep snow isn't obstructing your cat flap too.
All pets should be microchipped with contact details kept up to date (it became law for dogs in April 2016) so if they wander off or climb into something to keep warm, they can be traced back to you. Provide extra bedding for smaller pets e.g. rabbits, guinea pigs, and hamsters, and wild bird seed or alternative energy sources for feathered visitors. Make sure that your pet always has constant access to clean, unfrozen water, indoors and outdoors, placing a tennis ball in ponds and birdbaths to prevent water essential to wildlife from freezing over. Heated water bowls can also be purchased for outdoor use too.