Keeping Pets Safe In The Winter Months

We all know that dogs and cats are happiest and healthiest kept indoors, but even cats who have access to outside require protection from extreme weather conditions such as cold, wind and extreme heat.  With the temperatures set to plummet this week, it is time to spare a thought for all those animals who are kept outdoors.

Although snow may be a great source of fun for the family, you should always be prepared for the hazards it may bring, especially for our outdoor pets, so here are a few  tips for keeping them safe during the cold winter weather.

Doggie do’s and don’ts during the winter months.

  • Short haired dogs such as Greyhounds and Chihuahuas can be really sensitive to cold weather and benefit greatly from wearing coats during exercise.
  • Pavements are usually salted during snow fall, so remember to wash pads and feet  since it can be an irritant.
  • NEVER exercise off lead near rivers or lakes. They can become frozen and although the majority of dogs are strong swimmers, prevention is better than cure!
  • Be mindful of slippery conditions. The elderly should refrain from putting themselves and their dog at risk.  You can always entertain them inside until conditions improve.
  • Wearing bright or reflective clothing is advisable for both dog and owner to be seen by motorists, during dark winter evenings.
  • If your dog is under active during the winter months do not forget to cut back on his calories. Extra weight can cause health problems so please do not kill with kindness!
  • Dogs should NEVER be left outside in freezing conditions.

Cat’s survival guide

  • The majority of cats like to remain inside during the cold winter months, but if your cat does enjoy snowy conditions ensure that they have access to indoors. If there is no cat flap, keep them inside as cats can suffer from hypothermia and develop frostbite.
  • If you are keeping your cats inside, a litter tray should be provided.
  • Cat flaps can become blocked in heavy snowfall, so if your cat does venture outside,  ensure they are checked and cleared regularly.
  • Cats adore warm places and often gravitate to the warmth of a car engine to keep warm. This can cause them to be trapped without food and water so check before making your journey.

Hutches

  • If you really cannot bring your little furies indoors during the cold winter months, hutches should be positioned so that extreme snow/rain cannot get in and covered with an old blanket or sacking. Many of our clients use an old tarpaulin under a hutch to provide extra warmth, but remember when covering with any material, to leave the front clear in order that your pets can still enjoy daylight.
  • If a garage is to be their winter home, ensure that they have good ventilation (by a window) and an area that is damp and draft free. Fumes from your car can be fatal so do not use a garage that is used by a car.  Out of sight should not mean out of mind, so do not forget them.
  • Pets enjoy a thicker coat during the winter months, which can moult with constantly changes in temperature. Please therefore do not bring them inside at night to be put out again during the day.  This could also cause stress and further vulnerability to the cold.
  • Remember to add extra bedding and change it regularly.
  • Water bottles can often freeze over when left outside, so these should also be checked on a regular basis to ensure that your pet(s), can still drink.  Insulation sleeves can be purchased from good pet stores and if the water does freeze change for another as defrosted water can cause tummy upsets.
  • For those people who think ‘well wild rabbits live outside’, should be mindful that they have underground burrows which are dry and draught free and are able to snuggle up to other bunnies!
  • You can line the floor of your hutch with a layer of newspaper and extra hay/straw and you can now purchase a heat pad, but please remember to read and follow the instructions fully before use.
  • Hutches should be kept clean throughout the year whatever the weather.

It is worth remembering that rabbits are communal animals and should never be kept alone. Kept in pairs they will be able to enjoy the warmth and comfort of each other, but check the sex of each one before pairing to ensure that you are not over run with their offspring.

Pets rely on us for their well being and safety, especially during harsh weather conditions, but if in any doubt, please contact your veterinary practice who will happily offer advise without charge.

 

Christmas Dangers for Pets

We may still only be in November, but already Christmas trees and decorations are being hauled from the loft and with them come potential dangers to our pets.

Last Christmas, within 24 hours of publishing my vlog about the dangers of chocolate, I found myself and German Shepherd Dog Luika, in the vets at Leighton Buzzard, having his stomach pumped!

Such an embarrassment and a fine example of how quickly and easily dogs can capitalise on our mistakes.

Being a pet sitter, we have frequent visits from happy clients brandishing bottles of wine and boxes of chocolates.  All of which we donate to the staff of  local rescue centres as a thank you for their hard work throughout the year.  Sadly they are all to often forgotten and without their dedication and hard work, pets would never find suitable homes.

On this particular day, my husband had answered the door, to discover a beautifully wrapped parcel on our doorstep.  He was late for an appointment and left it on kitchen workshop at the same time as I had answered the phone.

I turned my back for no more than five minutes to discover on my return, a demolished parcel, an empty box of Baileys finest liqueurs and a rather sorry and furtive looking German Shepherd Dog!

I immediately reached for the phone to put our vets on alert, grabbed his lead and made a dash to the car.  Luckily it was only a few minutes drive, who immediately administered an injection to induce vomiting.

For those of you who’s dog has never required a vomit inducing drug, I can assure you it is not a pretty sight.  The next half an hour was spent watching my poor pouch, throwing up vast quantities of chocolate until the vet was satisfied that his system was completely clear.

With over eighteen years working within the pet care industry and a lifetime of owning pets and offering advice on my blog, I was aghast that this could happen to MY dog!  It takes but a few minutes for your pet to find danger and Christmas is a time full of them for our pets.

Every string of tinsel, each Poinsettia and even a Christmas dinner, can hold dangers for our pets.  Cats in particular, simply adore the allure of the Christmas tree decorations, so should never be left alone with its temptations and our pet sitters have lost count of the Poinsettia’s that have been relegated to a locked cupboard. Only last year, a client recalled how her prize Pug guzzled the contents of an unattended glass of sherry, which saw him spending Christmas night at the veterinary surgery, followed by a rather hefty vet bill!

The majority of Christmas dangers can be avoided however, so have a wonderful Christmas and remember to keep your pets safe.

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The Cruelty Behind The Traps

There is a hidden side to greyhound racing which race goers will never see. This includes painful injuries; kennels not fit for purpose, lack of socialisation and wanton neglect to name but a few!

This money driven industry, with its poorly maintained tracks, cause frequent injuries to these beautiful dogs and thousands will die or vanish each year that are deemed ‘surplus to requirements’. Their bodies have been found dumped in mass graves, often with their ears cut off to avoid identification.

In 2010 Government regulations were introduced to address these problems, but The League Against Cruel Sports states that they are woefully inadequate.

As a result of over breeding and the demand for better performances, dogs that do not make the grade are cruelly disposed of, with their ears sliced off and often shot with a bolt gun,  while some are sold for experimental purposes.  Such a cruel and bloody end for dogs whose only crime is being ‘unfit for purpose’!

Greyhound racing remains big business, where profit is put above animal welfare and of course while the Government continues to rake in taxes, there is little hope of a change.  There is an old saying within the racing fraternity, ‘You bet, they die’, which is sadly true of such a barbaric sport.

People who patronise these races, are quick to point out how Greyhounds love to race, but there is no freedom of choice on the racetrack.  These dogs can reach speeds of up to 40mph and if they collide at full sprint they can receive such horrific injuries that they have to be destroyed.

Sadly, an early death is the fate of most dogs born into the racing industry and due to the vast number bred each year it is impossible to re home them all.  So until people wake up to the reality behind the traps, they will continue to suffer!

The biggest welfare challenge for the lucky dogs that survive the track,  is what to do when they do retire.  The normal age for retirement is 4 – 5 years of age and that does not account for the puppies who do not make the grade.

Sadly there is still public perception that Greyhounds do not make good pets and that they require to much exercise when in fact the opposite is true.

They are still misunderstood and make wonderful, placid pets and contrary to public belief, do not need that much exercising. In fact the majority of retired Greyhounds that have been through our hands as pet sitters, only required a twenty to thirty minute walk, twice a day.  In the course of our dog walking duties, we would often enter the clients home, to find them feet up, sound asleep in a comfy bed and those dogs from the racing industry, often retire early, so have many years ahead of them.

Greyhounds make lovely pets

One word of caution however, a Greyhounds instinct is to chase, so they may require training in order that that can live happily with small pets, but we have cared for quite a few of these lovely dogs, who happily live with cats.

I cannot praise these dogs highly enough. They have been a joy to walk (although vigilance is required when spotting a squirrel or passing little furry), docile, biddable and an all round lovely companion, so next time you are looking to re-home a low maintenance dog, why not contact The Retired Greyhound Trust, who will be more than happy to match you with an appropriate dog.

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