\\\ Pets In Winter
\\\ updated November 2021
Caring For Your Pets During Winter
Helpful tips on how to prepare in advance + enjoy wintertime + stay safe
Pre-planning for winter provides your pet with warmth and comfort it needs
We’ve provided some tips and checklists for you especially if you are a new pet owner enjoying your first winter with your dog, cat, or rabbit.
Before winter arrives on our doorstep, usually without warning, it’s a good idea to get ‘pet prepared’.
Pets require warmth just as humans do and it’s important to provide them with some care and essentials they need.
Just because pets have fur coats doesn’t mean they are necessarily warm, they can still suffer hypothermia and frostbite.
Take time to do some extra reading up on your pet needs.
Your Dog Outside
Our pet dogs are not suited to spending long periods outdoors in the winter and will be better off by having shorter walks and more playtime engagement at home with you.
Dogs’ extremities suffer the most, their ears, nose, and paws when out in cold temperatures.
Buy a dog a winter jacket for some extra warmth when going out for a walk. This will also help to keep some of the mud and wet off their coats in bad conditions and then your pet requires less cleaning when back home.
Look for a quality-sized jacket to fit your breed. Dogs suited to winter climates such as St Bernard and the Alaskan malamutes do not usually need any coat for additional warmth.
Most quality dog coats are made with a washable fleece lining fabric. If you’re living in the countryside, where mud abounds, it’s best to have a couple of jackets to be able to wash, dry, and rotate.
Dogs that live outside and have to remain so, must be housed in good, insulated, and dry conditions with plenty of warm blankets provided. It’s important to check on their welfare more frequently during harsh weather and provide them regularly with fresh water which may freeze quickly.
If living in the north of the UK or in remote regions ensure you have plenty of pet food stocked up as winter bites, just as you make sure you have plenty of food stored in the cupboard and freezer.
Walking on snow and ice for long periods of time can be a numbing experience. Cut short walk times and ensure their paws are dried when back at home or at the car park ready to come home.
Areas of snow will have been gritted which generally includes chemicals including salt so it’s important to check that no grit remains between their paws at the end of the walk. This also applies to your cats when they return from being outside.
When out dog walking, take care with the ground covered by snow and ice. This can easily disguise potholes in the road or other uneven ground and pets become subject to nasty falls or even bump into large horrible sharp snow-covered large rocks requiring visits to the vet.
Older pets are prone to more mobility risks, slipping on ice and even humans are warned to steer clear of any covered ponds, lakes, or other water-covered areas. Ice can thaw and break at any time leaving you and your pet needing to be rescued from freezing cold water and possibly suffering hypothermia.
One of the worst winter pet accidents are animals drinking pools of melted ice which can contain anti-freeze oil leaked from car radiators.
Often cars can be parked up in a car park with pets returning from a winter walk with their owners being thirsty see these pools of water as a quick refreshment before getting in the car to go home.
If your pet has drunk slightly discoloured water get in touch with your vet immediately as it may contain highly dangerous Ethylene glycol.
Your dog or cat may start behaving in an odd way, almost as if drunk. The longer left, the more dangerous this condition becomes, being fatal.
There are many more pet-related traffic accidents during the winter months including those related to lower levels of light. Vets consider fluorescent jackets and collar an added way to help protect your pet to be seen, like yourself wearing visible clothing by motorists. Attaching a flashing light to your dog’s collar is an excellent idea as it is to take a flashlight/torch with you, helping to be seen in darker weather conditions.
It is advisable not to leave dogs in cars who can become cold and catch hypothermia and will need veterinary care.
Ensure your pet’s microchip details are all up to date and that your pet is wearing their ID tag on their collar.
Fleas are as active in the winter months as they are in the summer, often multiplying right under your nose in your pet’s home due to our artificial warm homes and lifestyle which they thrive upon. Vets and animal charities see a large drop in treatments being carried out by owners.
Continue treatments as usual to protect your pet, where fleas cause the most distressing irritant skin infections and can actually cause kittens to die from anemia due to the blood loss from feeding fleas.
Fleas can also bite and irritate human skin.
Caution – Most pet insurers expect you to carry out routine treatments such as flea treatments and pet dental cleaning regularly to qualify when claiming for other problems which may affect your claim if you haven’t.
Winter Outdoor Plants
Our Pet-Gardens guide Pet-Friendly Gardens provides a list of all the plants that are unsuited to animals.
During winter Hollie, Ivy and Mistletoe are plants and shrubs to avoid. Yew trees are always deadly, and lily’s notoriously bad especially for cats.
The most popular winter into early spring flowers include daffodils, snowdrops, crocus – all begin to appear and these are only seriously dangerous when pets manage to eat the bulbs. Storing bulbs carefully, ready for planting out is important.
Tracking devices are perfect to track your dog when on walks let-off-the-lead, especially in bad weather, darker nights, and hazardous conditions. They can attach to collars or dogs wear a special collar where you can monitor their position up to just 1 metre. Check our Dog-Walking guides for further information.
Pet Rabbits outside
Your pet rabbit needs to be kept warm just like you do during winter and there are several things to make sure their health is unaffected by cold weather.
Move their hutch position so that wind cannot drive rain and snow in.
Ensure the hutch is watertight and make any necessary repairs before bad weather.
Provide extra best quality bedding hay so they can burrow into the hay to keep themselves warm.
Preferably move your rabbit’s hutch into a dryer location such as a garage if not in use or conservatory. If this is not possible use old blankets or duvets wrapped around the hutch to provide extra insulation allowing some flow of air. Cover this with a waterproof tarpaulin.
Cats are feral and cold weather doesn’t stop them from wandering out although more time is generally spent in the home.
Cats will take shelter under cars and this becomes one of the biggest problems for motorists who need to check there are no animals sheltering before driving off.
Make a safe space for cats to shelter outside. If in a garden shed, check frequently that they can exit and do not become locked in.
Never throw out your old hand and bath towels as you’ll need more towels during the winter months to keep your dog clean and dry after walks.
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\\\ Pets Indoors
Around The Home
Puppies, young dogs, less active elderly, and short-haired dogs suffer the most and you’ll often find them snuggling up into the warmth wherever possible, including under the bedclothes if they are allowed!
This is a good time to think about the positioning of their dog bed, and perhaps site near or under a radiator safely, so they can curl up during the day or evening and be warm.
Dog beds are better raised off the floor to protect them from cold draughts and beds with raised sides are a bonus in winter.
Leave the heating on overnight when is very cold and provide your dog with a dog sweater or jumper to wear. These are ideal to wear at home providing them with another level of warmth.
If your dog is shivering and you cannot get your pet warm, they are whimpering and slow in movement, contact the vet immediately as they may be suffering from mild hypothermia.
Dogs do not suffer from colds.
Any signs of a runny nose, sneezing and coughing contact the vet as they may have kennel cough.
Pets need to be fed well during winter and may need more calories to keep them warm.
However, there is a growing problem with pet obesity and it’s important to not overfeed during winter where they may be more dormant. Still take your pet for regular free weigh-ins at your local vet to keep an eye on.
Your home may need some winter dog-proofing being at home longer and checks should be made that nothing small is left on the floor that they can accidentally eat, electrically wires are tucked well away from sight and accessibility and that open fireplaces have a sturdy guard in place.
Pets should never be left unattended near fires and candles which can easily be tipped over causing fires or singe the pet’s fur.
Buy secure pet food containers and place them in lockable cupboards so there’s no chance of pets opening doors and enjoying unexpected and possible toxic feasts. There’s plenty of treat jars and containers now available at all good pet stores.
Cats will often spend more time in the home when the weather is cold, sometimes only venturing out to relieve themselves, if not house cats, and very little time spent hunting at night where small animals are also hibernating.
Cats will be found curled up sleeping and particularly close to warm radiators. Some pet stores offer specialised cat beds that hinge onto radiators safely.
This can be a good time to renew the scratchpad making sure your pet has an adequate pad where they can stretch and scratch as often as they like, providing exercise, in a given area of the home.
Introduce some new toys that you can play with them and interact with, keeping them occupied during long winter days.
Inside House Plants
‘Safe’ winter indoor plants can include poinsettias, hyacinths, Christmas crocus, narcissus, and cranberry plants. These plants are all moderately safe, if not too much is accidentally digested by your dog or cat. Naturally, keep these away from your pet in-door rabbits.
As always, if your pet has been naughty and ingested parts of the plant, try and assess how much they have ingested quickly and contact your vet immediately for the best advice.
Symptoms of illness ingesting these plants can include intestinal upset, such as vomiting and diarrhea, excessive drooling, and abdominal pain.
A helpful checklist of items you’ll need for winter months ahead for dogs and cats
- Winter dog needs
- Dog bed
- Dog blanket
- Dog lead and collar
- Dog jacket(s)
- Dog Jumper
- Dog ID tag
- Dog food bowl
- Dog water bowl
- Dog food
- Dog treats
- Dog flea and worm treatments
- Dog grooming brush
- Dog shampoo
- Poop bags
- Spare towels
- Dog toys
- Winter cats may need
- Cat bed
- Cat blanket
- Cat scratchpad
- Cat toys
- Cat collar and ID tag
- Cat food bowl
- Cat water bowl
- Cat food
- Cat flea and worm treatments
- Cat grooming comb
Don’t throw old duvets that can be used to provide your dog or cat with additional warmth. They” love to snuggle up.
Images courtesy freepik