Common winter pet hazards

November 21, 2022

Winter can be the most wonderful time of year for people and pets; with the snow, playtime with the family, and best of all, snuggling up under a comfy blanket and watching a film. It is important to keep in mind though, the dangers that colder weather can bring for your pets.

Here is Towcester Vets guide to keeping your cats and dogs happy and away from danger over the winter months.

Winter hazards for pets and how to keep them safe

Winter pet hazards are pretty common, wherever you live. But what are the specific risks for your type of pet and them as individuals? Ask yourself, what is their lifestyle like? Indoor or outdoor cat? Does your dog shudder at the thought of getting rained on?

Despite pets having furry coats to keep them warm, it is our job as pet owners to provide the right care for when the temperature drops too low. So, here are Towcester Vets top tips for keeping your cat or dog safe and comfortable in the frosty season.

1. Shelter

Make sure your pet has a place of refuge indoors (and outdoors for cats) especially when temperatures drop to below freezing. Soft blankets to keep them warm are greatly appreciated – especially by our feline friends!

2. Wellness

Cold temperatures can exacerbate the symptoms of some health conditions, arthritis especially. If you are concerned about your pet this winter, arrange a wellness check up with one of our vets at our surgery.

3. Exercise

Being in the cold and wet for too long is not a good idea for your pet, but they still need to exercise. For dogs, reduce the length but increase the frequency of walks. If you have a cat flap, your cat can go out and exercise as much as they want and come back in when they’re too cold.

4. Dangerous areas

When walking your dog, avoid frozen lakes, ponds, and icy roads – especially in the dark. If you have a frozen pond, consider covering it in a tight mesh or finding another way to stop pets walking on it and falling in.

5. Body heat

Think about buying your dog a jumper and a coat, maybe even winter boots for going out in. This is especially wise if they are small, very old/young, or don’t have thick fur. Most pet shops and even some high street stores will stock these. Getting cold and wet on a walk can be miserable for dogs so dry your pet after they have been out, cats too. Left unattended indoors, pet jumpers could make them overheat, so blankets are a good idea instead. When it comes to beds, most cats like a bed by a radiator and anywhere else that is warm. Keep pet beds away from draughts and off cold floors.

6. Visibility

Winter always brings lower visibility whether that’s from the shorter daylight hours, grey skies, fog, or rain. This can be particularly dangerous on the roads. Attaching reflective items or lights to your pet’s collar or dog’s coat can really help reduce the likelihood of losing your pet and them getting into serious trouble.

7. Identification

Ensure their collar, tag, and microchip details are up to date, just in case your pet does get lost; you want to be able to find them quickly, especially in cold temperatures.

8. Winter poisons

Keep pets away from antifreeze as it is poisonous and potentially fatal. If you suspect they have licked antifreeze or similar toxic chemicals, contact your local Towcester vet practice immediately.

9. Paw problems

Winter pavements can be quite treacherous for pets. Ice, snow, and road grit can be irritants and often contain chemicals. Walking on them can make paws become cracked and potentially bloody. Make sure to clean your pet’s paws after being outside.

10. Sustenance

It’s important to keep your pet hydrated and fed appropriately during the winter months. They tend to drink less and eat more than usual, so bear this in mind and monitor their food and water intake. Cats especially love to have fresh water and some prefer this to be outdoors so keep their supply topped up. If your pet is gaining a lot of weight, book a weight check with one of our vet nurses for advice – contact us to book.

11. Boredom

With shorter walks and more time indoors, it’s a good idea to play with your cat or dog more at home – you could even try teaching them a new trick! Animals who are not mentally stimulated can become bored, anxious, and destructive. You could also try scatter feeding your pet so they have to work harder to get their food, burning calories as they go!

When is it too cold for my cat or dog to be outdoors?

Generally, 6 degrees Celsius is a no-no for pets being outdoors, but anything below freezing won’t be comfortable for them – animals can develop hypothermia and pneumonia too. Cats who like to roam outdoors, however, can get stressed if they are kept in. Instead, make evening mealtimes earlier to encourage them indoors at night.

How to tell if your pet is dangerously cold?

According to our vet team, the tell-tale signs usually include shivering, difficulty breathing, cold skin, weakness, loss of consciousness, rigidity, and pale skin. It is extremely important to know this as temperatures drop to ensure the safety of your furry friend.

If you suspect your pet is unwell, contact our team who are happy to offer advice and answer any questions in the first instance, remember the quicker you get them seen by a vet, the better.

We hope you found our advice helpful and are now ready to enjoy the winter months safely with your beloved pet.

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