Looking after pets in the winter

Despite their warm fur coats, our four-legged friends are not immune to the cold weather and can develop hypothermia and frostbite in the winter months, says leading veterinary charity PDSA.

To help owners keep their pets snug and warm, the PDSA has put together some winter pet care tips to ensure pets aren’t caught out in the cold.

Winter pet care tips for cats and dogs

Don’t leave a dog or cat outside in freezing temperatures for any length of time without providing access to shelter and warmth. The most common cause of hypothermia is when pets have been outside for too long in freezing rain or snow, or have fallen into an icy cold river or pond. The first sign of hypothermia is shivering, which will disappear if the pet is severely hypothermic. The animal will quickly become lethargic and withdrawn, with cold ears and feet.

If you suspect your pet is suffering from hypothermia, you should dry it off as quickly as possible. Wrap it up in warm towels together with a well-covered hot water bottle or use a hair dryer (on a low heat and at a safe distance from their skin to avoid burns) to slowly raise its body temperature. It is also important to call your vet for advice.

Winter pet care tips for small furries

Small furry pets, such as guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits, also need special care in winter months. They can be kept outside, but it is advisable to move them indoors, keep them in a warm shed or a car-less garage (exhaust fumes can be very harmful). Cover the hutch at night with a blanket or piece of old carpet, but ensure it is well ventilated, and add extra bedding for warmth. Make sure that you check regularly that the water bottle isn’t frozen. If you bring your small pets indoors, keep them away from other pets, stressful noises and smoky atmospheres.

Winter pet care tips for fish

Fish ponds should be checked regularly during cold weather. To ensure the fish get enough oxygen if the water freezes, put a large hollow ball in the pond, which can then be removed if the pond freezes to allow oxygen in. Remove fallen leaves from the water too and keep the filter on as usual. Tropical fish owners should also keep a close eye on their aquarium, to ensure the temperature doesn’t fall too low. With good preparation, pets will enjoy a warm and happy winter! For more information on pet care, visit the PDSA website at www.pdsa.org.uk. The PDSA is Cosyfeet’s chosen charity of the year.

Winter pet care tips