A guide to keeping your pet safe this winter

As we head towards the winter months, we asked our Senior Veterinary Surgeon, Ximo Huertas, to talk us through some of the hazards of the coming season and how best to protect our pets.

“The colder months can present all manner of issues for pets, even those accustomed to being outdoors. As the temperatures dip, what we advise is that if it’s too cold for us, it’s essentially too cold for most pets too. But there are simple steps to take to ensure they avoid hypothermia and associated complications, so, let’s look at how to spot the early signs of these winter issues.”

Winter hazards

The best advice we give our customers is to prepare well for winter; assume the worst conditions and make sure your home and supplies are in place to manage through until the weather improves. Learn what you can about the hazards now, as we know that the more informed we are, the safer our little friends will be.

Hypothermia

You may feel your pet’s furry coat is the perfect protection against the cold weather. But don’t be fooled. During winter, temperatures can plummet ­­­– especially at night – meaning even those pets with a lovely thick coat can struggle to maintain their body temperature. In extreme circumstances this can lead to hypothermia and can prove fatal.

We advise you to keep your pets inside at night and minimise their exposure to the extremes of winter. Signs your pet could be suffering from hypothermia would include:

  • Shivering
  • Pale gums
  • Poor co-ordination
  • Sleepier than usual
  • Coma

If you see any of the symptoms above developing, please contact us without delay as early intervention will help give your pet the best chance of a full recovery. Prevention is always better than the cure, so always make sure all pets have somewhere warm and cosy to nestle down. Keep dog walks shorter and dry their wet, cold paws when you return home.

If you do start to recognise signs of hypothermia, gently warm your pet with a warm towel or similar and see if they will drink lukewarm water (never hot). Then call your vet and take advice quickly. We’re here when you need us.

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Accidents on ice or snow-covered surfaces

Some of our older pets may have mobility issues and be slightly less steady on their paws. So, factor in the slip and slide of icy surfaces and it’s easy to see our cats and dogs get injured. Snow can cover all sorts of hidden potholes, cracks and uneven surfaces. Try to stick to well cleared, visible paths and tracks. We always recommend you check and dry cold wet paws when your pet arrives home – compacted ice can easily get trapped.

Salt and grit

It’s not just the cold itself that affects the paws of our little ones, the grit and salt used to treat pavements and roads can be very drying for their paws too. Always give them a gentle clean and apply a recommended product if they become sore. Give our team a call and we’ll be happy to recommend what product is most suitable.

Anti-freeze and de-icer poisoning

Always a huge concern to any pet, toxic substances that are much needed in winter can wreak havoc if left in the wrong place. Always keep any household, car or garden substance securely in a locked storage unit, out of reach of all pets and wildlife.

If your pet has ingested any of these winter toxins, they are likely to show symptoms such as twitching, vomiting, seizures, a greater thirst, rapid breathing and collapse. Always seek professional veterinary advice immediately if you think there is any chance your cat or dog could have come into contact with anti-freeze or other substance. Even if they have not yet shown any symptoms, this early action could save their life.

Visibility in fading light

It sounds obvious, but in the early light of dawn or the fading light of evening, it is important to make sure not only you, but your pets are easily visible to motorists, cyclists and any road users. There are so many high visibility products, collars, coats and harnesses that will help to keep you pet seen and safe. Speak to one of our team if you would like more advice on what is best for your cat or dog.

Halloween and festive foods

In previous blog posts, we have detailed some of the common food stuffs found in our homes that can be harmful to pets. From October, many of us begin to stock up on treats and feasts. Always keep chocolate, nuts, alcohol, raisins and other dried fruits out of reach of a cheeky pet looking for its own little treat! And remember, some of these ingredients can be hidden when baked into products we so often have lying on plates and tables. If your pet eats any of these toxic products, please contact us immediately.

Poisonous plants and festive decorations

Again, we have touched on poisonous plants in previous blog posts, but for the autumn & winter season additional plants to avoid are Poinsettia, Amaryllis, Holly, Mistletoe and even Snowdrops. Read more about plants and flowers to avoid and keep your pets safe.

Read more about plants and flowers to avoid and keep your pets safe.

If your pet starts to show any of the symptoms detailed in the blog post, never hesitate to contact one of our surgeries as the team is always on hand to advise and help as needed. We may be able to provide guidance of what to do over the phone but in some instances, we may need to see your pet urgently. Never leave a health issue to develop without having a talk with us.

Regular health checks

In winter, as with any other time of the year, it is important to keep to your pet’s regular health check programme. Ensuring their all-round good health will always place them in a stronger position should they fall foul of the winter hazards. Remember, here at The Pet Vet, we offer an affordable Pet Health Plan to see your pet through the whole year in tip top condition.

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