Autumn has now officially settled in, which can only mean one thing:
Winter is right around the corner.
The bitter cold, dismal days are on their way, and if you’re a pet owner, it’s important you know how to keep them safe, warm, and happy during the months ahead.
Every animal has different needs, so in this post, the experts here at Pet Shop Online have compiled a few helpful tips and tricks to help you and your favourite furry friends out this winter.
While some breeds – like Siberian Huskies and German Shepherds – thrive during the colder months, others don’t enjoy it so much.
Most dogs will be perfectly happy to go outside and continue with their daily exercise – but you’ll need to take a little extra care of them in the icy weather.
Just like us, our canine companions can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite.
So, the most important thing to ensure, and the key to keeping them happy, is keeping them warm.
To do this, you can:
- Provide a cosy sleeping space – a soft bed and an extra thick blanket should do the trick. If your house is particularly cold or draughty, you could invest in a self-warming mat which retains your dog’s body temperature.
- Buy them a coat or sweater – not only will they look adorable while out on their walkies, but they’ll also be nice and cosy. Coats or sweaters are a must for breeds like Chihuahuas or Greyhounds that struggle with the nippy temperatures. Feeling the temperature of your dog’s ears is a good way to assess their warmth – cold ears mean jumper time! Also, if you need a jacket or coat to keep warm, your pup will, too.
Another thing you should be doing regularly in the winter is checking your dog’s paws.
The cold weather can cause nothing but bother for your furry friend’s precious paws, especially with the gritters back out de-icing the roads.
The combination of rock salt and sand or gravel on the pavements can damage paw pads, and prolonged contact can even lead to chemical burns, dryness, and painful cracking.
Not only that, but it’s also toxic if swallowed, so always wash their paws as soon as you arrive home to prevent them from licking it off themselves.
Cats are usually more inclined to stay indoors during the colder weather – and who can blame them?
They’ve definitely got the right idea, but there are some things you should do to keep them comfortable and content:
- Provide an indoor litter tray – your kitty is less likely to want to do its business outside when it’s chilly. Pop a tray somewhere quiet and private to allow them to go to the toilet in warmth and comfort.
- Give them lots of toys and indoor activities – naturally, cats eat more during the winter months to further insulate themselves. This, in addition to becoming less active in the winter, can cause them to gain a bit of weight, so providing lots of toys and stimulating activities will make sure they stay active and healthy.
- Keep them warm and dry – if your cat does venture outside and they come back wet, gently dry them off with a soft, warm towel. Once they’ve settled inside, make sure they have a few different places to snuggle up. This is quite important for older cats or cats with medical conditions such as arthritis, that have lost muscle tone or weight and have trouble maintaining their body temperature.
Rabbits, guinea pigs and other small animals
Outdoor pets bear the brunt of the frosty temperatures but keeping them safe and warm doesn’t have to be a struggle.
You can pack their sleeping area with extra, high-quality straw or sawdust to enable them to keep the warmth in.
Line their hutch with cardboard, old blankets, or fleecing to keep them extra snuggly – but make sure there’s enough ventilation.
To provide more shelter, pop their hutch against a wall or in your shed/garage – but make sure to remove any hazardous items, such as open paint cans.
Know your pet’s limits
As we’ve discovered, all of our furry friends are different and have varying needs depending on their coats, activity levels, and overall health.
You must learn how to understand these needs so that you’re able to adjust your care regime in the winter accordingly.
For example, if you’ve noticed your pooch is no longer a fan of their morning walkies, or they’re at higher risk in colder weather due to health conditions like arthritis, either shorten your routes or eradicate them completely.
If at any time you notice your pet shivering, whining, getting anxious, slowing down or looking weak, provide a warm cosy place for them to burrow, and if you pick up on any signs of frostbite or hypothermia, consult your vet immediately.
Signs of frostbite and hypothermia in pets
Just like humans, our furry friends can suffer from weather-related illnesses like hypothermia and frostbite.
Sometimes, it can be more difficult to recognise the symptoms in our pets than in ourselves, but there are some signs you can look out for if you’re concerned:
- Discolouration of the skin – often a pale grey or blue-ish colour
- Areas of blackened or dead skin
- Excessive shivering – shivering is a natural response to help the body warm up. If your pet becomes severely cold, it may stop shivering completely
- Drowsiness, confusion, and/or clumsiness
- Pale gums
- Loss of consciousness
It’s always a good idea to check your pet’s temperature, too, as it will give the best indication as to whether or not they’re too cold and at risk of developing these illnesses.
According to the PDSA, these are the normal body temperature ranges for the following animals:
- Dogs – 37.7-39.0°C
- Cats – 37.7-39.0°C
- Rabbits – 38.6-40.1°C
If you notice any of the symptoms above, you need to act quickly.
Call your vet immediately and try your best to warm your pet up whilst you’re waiting to be seen.
Dry them off with a towel if they’re wet, and warm them up with blankets underneath and over them.
Slowly increase the temperature around them, for example, by putting the heating on in your house or car. Try not to do this too quickly with items like hot water bottles or heating pads, as this could end up burning them.
If your pet is awake and able to take a drink, try giving them some lukewarm water.
Even if you think they’re okay, it’s still important to take them to the vet to get checked over – just to be safe.
Need further advice?
If you need further advice on how to take care of your furry friend this winter, or you’re looking for more ways to keep them warm, you’re more than welcome to get in touch with our experts here at Pet Shop Online.
Give us a call on 0161 728 4656 to speak to us directly or send us a message via our online contact form and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.
We’re always happy to help!