Skip to main content

Now that the clocks have changed and the nights are drawing in earlier, we find ourselves preparing for these cold, dark winter months. We ensure that we’ve got out all our woollies, our fireplaces are prepared, and our kettles have been warned of their increase in expected duties. But what about our pets? What are some of the main issues relating to the winter season that can be prevented, and how can you best care for them to keep them healthy in the colder weather?

Firstly; when venturing outdoors:

  • Hypothermia/ exposure

It is a misconception that because animals have fur, they do not get cold. Small or low body weight dogs are more at risk of colder weather, whereas those breeds that have a double coat (such as a Labrador or German Shepherd) are better equipped to handle low temperatures. It is always important to ensure that your pet is comfortable and happy when outside, and if you’re spending a bit longer outdoors, to consider getting a waterproof winter coat for them.

  • Frostbite

Our pets can suffer with frostbite on certain parts of their body, including their paws, ears, and tail, or anywhere where the fur is thin. It is likely that if they are suffering with frostbite, they are also suffering with hypothermia, so it is essential that if you’re worried, you call us for advice immediately. Signs to watch out for include discolouration (usually darkening) of the affected area of skin, pain, swelling and blisters or ulcers in the affected region.

  • Paw care and grooming

Following on from the above point regarding frostbite, snow and ice can build up between our pets’ paws, increasing the risk of frostbite, and causing pain. Particularly, in longer coated breeds, it is important to thoroughly check between their toes to ensure that snow isn’t clumping to their fur, and to consider paw protectors on cold, icy days. Another place that is common for icy clumps are on the underside of their belly, so giving them a thorough check over when you return from your walks is important. Keep their fur around their paws clipped and ensure that medium to long-haired breeds are regularly groomed.

  • Visibility

A consequence of the shorter days is having to walk our dogs in the dark. Particularly important for dogs that are used to being off lead, we must ensure that they remain visible to us, other pedestrians, and drivers on the road. Investing in visibility gear (such as a waterproof reflective coat, a hi vis collar/ harness, or safety light) is recommended as added protection.

  • Keep away from frozen lakes and rivers

Although somewhat self-explanatory, please take care when letting your dog off lead around frozen water bodies. Not only can dogs slip on ice, causing injuries, ice that can appear sturdy on the surface may be thin, and they can fall through. Just like humans, this can result in drowning or hypothermia and many dogs – with their noses to the ground – will not consider that it may be too dangerous to step on the ice!

  • Toxins

Getting our anti-freeze bottles out is a clear sign that winter is here. However, most antifreezes are extremely toxic to dogs, and even just the ingestion of a small amount can be fatal, causing acute kidney failure. Keep it out of reach and be extremely judicious with its use. If you think that it is possible that your pet has ingested antifreeze, please do not hesitate to contact us immediately, as while there is a treatment, any delay can be deadly.

Indoor care

  • Arthritis

For our senior animals, signs of joint pain can worsen in colder temperatures. If you are worried about your pet in the lead up to winter, please give us a call and we can discuss some treatments to keep them comfortable in the colder months. Make the most of the six-month health checks if you are a part of our pet health club to have a nose to tail examination before the cold months set in. Different options for management of arthritis include joint supplements, laser therapy, and a wide range of different painkilling and anti-inflammatory medication to keep them comfortable.

  • Warm, dry bedding

It may be obvious but ensuring that your pet’s sleeping area is warm and dry is important, especially if they have been traipsing around outside in wet weather. Also ensure that it is kept away from any uncovered radiators in the house, as the heat from radiators can cause burns.

  • Weight control

Winter is a common time of the year for your pet to gain a few sneaky pounds. What with less exercise in the colder, wetter weather, more time indoors can also often mean a few extra titbits here and there. Ensuring that you manage their weight is important, and it helps to keep them as active as possible inside by playing indoor games. You can bring your pet into the clinic any time to be weighed and talk to our staff about any concerns you have.

  • Christmas dangers!

We all love our mince pies and chocolates, and many dogs love them too. It is all too common to hear the stories of dogs that climb countertops (or go into the present box hidden in the wardrobe!) to get to them, even when you think your food is out of reach! Unfortunately, both chocolate and raisins are toxic to dogs. Whilst we have a good idea of what the toxic dose is of chocolate, just one raisin can cause kidney failure in some dogs, and it is just not worth the risk of leaving it. If you think that your dog has ingested something you are unsure about, please phone us, and we will advise you on the next best course of action.

We wish all our pets a happy and healthy winter, and hope that there aren’t too many sneaky critters getting into those chocolates! As always, prevention is always better than a cure, and a few simple steps can go a long way in ensuring your pet’s health during this season.