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.
- 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.