Looking After Your Pet During the Colder Weather

As the colder weather takes hold of the region once more, we are reminded of the extra precautions to take when out and about on the roads, from clearing snow off our cars before travelling, to slowing down on untreated roads. Just as we pay attention to these annual warnings, pet owners must also consider how they can best look after their pet during the colder months – we have put together some helpful tips for you:

Make sure they have access to water and a good shelter from the elements

If you have your pet outside at any point during the day, check up regularly to make sure their water remains unfrozen. With the temperatures well into minus figures in some areas of Northern Ireland, it’s also really important to ensure your pet is not left outside for long periods of time and that they have an appropriate warm shelter away from the severe wind and rain.

If you have an outdoor shelter for your pet, it is recommended that this is raised off the ground and has an entrance which is sheltered from the elements to ensure it remains dry. Furnish the shelter with lots of cosy, warm bedding for your companion which is changed on a regular basis.

Are your smaller companions well sheltered?

For any homes with rabbits and guinea pigs which are normally kept outside, look after the little ones during these brisker days and ‘winter-proof’ their hutches. The hutches should be waterproof and designed to ensure there are no drafts. Similarly, to our first point, regularly check up on their water supply to make sure it hasn’t frozen. Where possible, consider bringing their hutches into an indoor space.

Looking after equines

Having appropriate shelter for horses, ponies and donkeys during the colder weather is key, even if they are stabled overnight. In their field, it is recommended to have some form of windbreak or shelter in place to allow some relief from the harsh conditions. Similarly, to our dogs and small mammals, always check that your equine has access to fresh unfrozen water.

Some horses are comfortable during the colder weather however it might be worth considering adding a warm winter rug for those that are not as comfortable. If you do need to rug your horse, use a rug that fits properly and have a spare in case one gets wet. In conditions of deep snow and mud, your horses’ legs will not fully dry off which can result in skin conditions. It is important to check their hooves daily for any signs of infections.

Watch out for any anti-freeze spillages

While trying to keep our cars on the road during the colder weather, we must reach for the anti-freeze every now and again. It is vital to take care when using this and to quickly clean up any spillages as these can be easily ingested by your pet. Anti-freeze can be sweet in taste, unfortunately making it all the more tempting for your pet however this can prove fatal for them. Initial symptoms following the consumption of anti-freeze include diarrhoea, vomiting and weakness. Often the pet will then appear to recover however in a very short space of time they can suffer kidney failure with fatal consequences.

Enjoy your walks safely

We have all been embracing the great outdoors lately, maybe even more so than usual this year and with that, when taking your four-legged friend along for a walk, there are a few things to keep in mind.

All dogs love a good walk however during the sharper spells of weather, they may not thank you for them as much. Whilst some dogs are built for artic-like conditions, other dogs – especially smaller breeds – are not so keen. It is recommended to break your walks into shorter spells throughout the day, rather than one large walk. This ensures that your pet is getting some exercise but is also not exposed to the rough conditions for too long. If you have noticeably less walking time with your dog due to the cold weather, it is important to keep them active, where possible, indoors.

For breeds with a little less padding against the snow and chillier temperatures, it’s best to have them well wrapped up with a dog coat. If you are taking any evening walks, also make sure your dog is visible with a reflective lead, harness, or coat.

It is recommended to check your dogs’ paws after each walk to remove any snow or salt. If snow is left it can compact and can cause discomfort, while salt can cause irritation and stomach upset if ingested by your pet.

If walking near any frozen lakes and rivers, it is advised to keep your dog on a lead in case they run across it as it is difficult to determine how secure the surface may be. If out and about during snow or hailstorms, visibility can also be greatly affected, and it is safer to keep your dog on a lead. If you want to have your dog off lead, ensure they respond well when called and also have their microchip details up to date with your contact information should they get lost. 

Check your bonnet

During the colder spells of weather, please be extra mindful of our feline friends who may creep into your car engine for shelter. The warmth of the engines can be irresistible to these little ones but unfortunately can lead to injuries or fatalities.

  • Keep your own cat indoors during the winter months and check on them before leaving the house
  • Where possible check under your car and on top of the tyres
  • Tap the bonnet before entering your car to alert any unwanted passengers and give them time to escape.

These steps could very well save a life.

We hope you and your much-loved pets enjoy the wintery weather safely and have lots of snow filled memories together!