Winter is a season of cold and numbing wetness. Make sure your four-footed family members stay safe and warm by following these simple tips during the winter season.

Coats – just because your pet has a fur coat, doesn’t mean he won’t feel the cold. Small dogs or dogs with little to no hair should have sweaters or jackets for protection against the cold.  If your dog doesn’t like wearing clothing, then better to keep them out of the cold and provide them with mental and physical stimulation through play instead. 

Water & food – ensure food and water is provided inside the home to prevent it from freezing.  Avoid letting your dog drink water from bowls outside as the frigid temperatures could cause stomach upsets and even hypothermia.

Cold – pets shouldn’t be left outside or walked for long periods of time.  Even half an hour in freezing temperatures can cause problems. Never leave your pet outside or in the car for more than ten minutes when temperatures dip below freezing. Your pet’s ears, feet and tail are highly susceptible to frostbite, so limit his time outdoors.

Ice and feet – when walking your dog near ice or frozen puddles/ponds/canals/lakes, keep your dog close to you and on the lead.  This ensures your dog cannot run across the ice, avoids his feet getting accidentally cut on the ice and helps prevent falls on the ice which may lead to injury for you and your dog. Always wash your dog’s paw’s after a winter walk to remove any salt.

Shaking – if your pet is out in the cold and begins shaking or shivering, get him back to warm shelter as soon as possible.  Signs of hypothermia include; shaking/violent shivering, slow and shallow respiration, a slower heart rate, gums may appear pale or blue.  The pet may also appear listless. Call your vet immediately.

Eating snow/ground matter – avoid letting your pet eat snow or anything else on the ground.  Dangerous objects or chemicals may be hidden in the snow or ice.  Eating snow can also cause stomach upsets and even hypothermia. Keep water at room temperature. Pet’s, especially dogs, become easily dehydrated in winter so make sure he has easy access to fresh water.

Antifreeze – make sure you keep antifreeze for your car out of your pets reach.  While many solutions have been updated, every year a number of animals are accidentally poisoned by it.  The substance tastes sweet to pets, which encourages them to drink.  As a precaution, don’t allow your pet to drink from any puddles particularly while out on a walk as it may contain antifreeze, car oil or other substances that could be harmful to your pet.  Make sure you also wash and dry your pet’s feet when you come in from a walk; grit and salt from the pavements or roads can irritate the skin and cause stomach upset if your four-legged friend licks their paws.  Supervise your pet while outside (even in the garden) and if you suspect your dog has had any exposure to antifreeze, call your vet immediately.

Fire – if you use an indoor or outdoor fireplace, ensure you keep a safety guard around it in order to protect your pet from the flames and soot.  Never leave a fire unattended.

Shelter/bedding – always ensure your pet has adequate shelter where it will be warm and dry.  His bed shouldn’t be in a draughty area and bedding should be kept dry.  Provide extra blankets when temperatures dip below freezing.

Grooming – snow can get easily caught up in the fur of your pet. So, regular grooming will help avoid matter being caught in their coat and a well groomed coat means a better insulating coat for your dog or cat.

In the car – never leave your pet alone in a vehicle.  There is a risk that if the engine is off, this could lead to hypothermia and or risk of theft.  If the engine is left running, he may be overcome with carbon monoxide fumes.  Better to leave your dog at home in the warm.  

Rabbits/Guinea Pigs and other rodents – little furries don’t like the cold, if possible bring your pets indoors during the coldest winter months.  Avoid placing indoor hutches near radiators or by windows.  Alternatively, move your pets into your garden shed (ideally with some form of heating) or in a garage to avoid the harsh temperatures.  Ensure hutches are away from any drafts and are well insulated with hay and protective pet coverings.  Every day check your pet’s water bottles and food is not frozen.

Follow these tips to keep your pet healthy and safe this winter.

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Winchester, VA 22601

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