Friday, 15 December 2017

The weather outside is frightful!

With the recent bout of arctic weather, there's no denying that winter is well and truly here! Whilst we can easily bundle up in coats, scarves, and woolly hats, spare a thought for your pets, as they can't bundle up as easily! Luckily, we have a few tips and tricks to help keep your furry loved ones just as warm – and safe – this winter. 

Out and about

It may be hard to motivate yourself to get up and take your dog for a walk when it's freezing outside, but as they need regular exercise, they'll thank you for it! Certain pooches, such as small dogs, elderly dogs, and breeds with fine hair, will benefit from their own doggy coat when you both venture outside.

Although it may look like fun to them, keep your dog away from frozen lakes and other bodies of water, as there is no way to determine how strong the ice is until it's too late – better to be safe than sorry!

With shorter daylight hours, tendencies for fog, and the odd snow fall, visibility can be severely reduced. In order to combat this, good recall is key, and using an LED collar or collar attachment is a great idea.

Your cat should never be left outside for long periods of time during winter, even if he does have his own thick winter coat! If their fur gets wet, cats will be at a greater risk of contracting hypothermia. Long, dark evenings and adverse weather conditions will also make them harder for drivers to see, so keep your kitty safe inside once night draws in.

During the colder months, bang on the hood of your car before turning on the engine; this will alert any cats that may have taken refuge under the car due to the previous night's warm engine. It's also a good idea to provide cats with an alternative place to take cover, enticing them away from the shelter of the car. It doesn't have to be anything fancy; a shed with a cat flap, and an upturned box lined with straw will suffice.

Just like us, our furry friends can hate the cold. Shivering, an unwillingness to go outside, and slow, clumsy movements are signs that your pet has become too cold. Hypothermia is the more extreme end of "being cold," and the signs of this are notable and intense. If you are worried that your pet may have become too cold, make sure they are indoors and wrapped up in warm blankets. Contact a vet to assess your pet for any possible long-term effects.

With the nights drawing in early, it's an ideal time to check that your pet's microchip details are up-to-date, to ensure a safe and speedy return should they go missing. You can do this by contacting your microchip database provider.

At home

After your dog walk, make sure to dry and check your pooch's paws thoroughly. Grains of sand or grit used to de-ice the roads have a nasty habit of getting lodged in-between toes, which can cause serious harm and discomfort. Long-haired breeds are especially prone to this.

The same goes for cats! Always check paws for grit or ice, and make sure they are thoroughly dried.

Aim to provide your feline with fresh water, especially if they normally drink from an outside water source. This means that they are always able to quench their thirst, even if their outside water source freezes over. It's also good to provide an indoor litter tray, so they can do their business inside if they wish.

It's also a good idea to have your pet's bed located somewhere warm and cosy, away from any draughts. Heated pet mats are a great way to help offset the chill from outside.

Alternative, indoor exercise

Some dogs may be as reluctant as you are to leave the warmth of indoors. If that is the case, don't force them to go out for a walk. Instead, have plenty of toys to hand and devise a variety of games to encourage regular exercise. Books such as Dog Games – Stimulating play to entertain your dog, Exercising your puppy – a gentle & natural approach and No walks? No worries! provide useful ideas to keep your dog active when going outside is not a viable option. Just remember to adjust your dog's diet in accordance with the decrease in exercise, to avoid unnecessary weight gain!

There are a great many ways to keep your cat entertained indoors, too. We all know how much cats love a cardboard box, chasing ping pong balls, or just darting about the house. Check out Fun and games for cats! for more fun, indoor activities. Again, you should adjust your cat's diet to avoid weight gain.

Toxic substances

Antifreeze contains the chemical compound ethylene glycol, and is one of the biggest winter hazards for cats and dogs. It can be found in a number of car-related items, such as de-icer, screen wash, and car radiators. Make sure to keep these well away from your pet, and if any does happen to spill, clean it up straight away. It only takes a small amount ingested to be fatal, so if you suspect that they have lapped some up, contact your vet immediately as prompt attention is essential.

Christmas cautions

As it's Christmas time, there are bound to be other toxins present in your home. Here's a handy little list of what to look out for:

  • Chocolate: try not to leave chocolate – whether it be a selection box, advent calendar or tree decorations – unattended. Dogs in particular can scoff a lot in a small amount of time, and this can affect the heart and nervous system, sometimes fatally! 
  • Pudding and pie: Mince pies, Christmas pud, or any other raisin/current/sultana/grape-based treat can cause kidney failure in pets. Clear away any uneaten treats out of harm's way.
  • Onions: Stuffing and a Boxing Day turkey curry may be an integral part of the festive season, but these contain onions, which can lead to anaemia. Don't be tempted into placing food scrapes in their food bowls!
  • Leftovers in general: Dogs often have no qualms when it comes to eating food that may be past its best, leading them to develop gastric problems. Clean up throughly after every meal. 
  • Alcohol: Just as we feel the effects of a tipple, pets can, too – although it takes a much smaller amount before it can become dangerous. Be vigilant about unattended glasses, and keep them out of paws reach!
  • Flora and fauna: Poinsettia, holly, and mistletoe may be Christmas staples, but are a hazard to your pet if they get their paws on some! These plants may cause vomiting if eaten, and holly is particularly nasty due to the prickly nature of the leaves.

Here's wishing you a warm Yuletide filled with festive – and safe – fun for all!

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