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How to prepare your pet for the winter

How to prepare your pet for the winter

They may look festive on a Christmas card, but recent snow flurries across the country can be potentially fatal for our furry friends. Here are some tips and advice to prepare your pet for the colder months ahead.

Fur doesn’t cut it

cat in the snow

Our fluffy pets’ fur may look cosy, but their coats aren’t actually the best insulators. This is particularly true if their fur gets wet, which is inevitable in winter weather.

Even the long haired, double coated cats and dogs will suffer in extreme conditions in the same way a mountain climber can get hypothermia regardless of protective clothing. 

However, in slightly less extreme temperatures, it can help to invest in dog / cat coats and boots to protect your pet’s paws and torsos.

Young puppies and kittens do not have the metabolic rate, fat stores or full coat to protect them from dropping temperatures so should be kept indoors during winter as much as possible. The same goes for older and sick pets.

Flashing collars, leads and reflective clothing or bands can help your pet stay safe and seen in the darker mornings and nights. These are especially helpful if your pet is let out alone or off the lead. Make sure any items of clothing are comfortable and a good fit.

Using the “outdoor loo”

dog cold on beach

Encouraging dogs and cats to do their business outside can be even more difficult in the cold.

It can help to keep a pathway clear to avoid wading through the snow. Stand at the door so they can run back inside as soon as they’re finished and give them boots to wear for extra protection.

Some pets can be trained to use indoor potties / pads which are available from most pet shops. Training can take a while, so patience is required, but necessary if your pet refuses to go outside.


Fatal festivities

kitty at christmas

We love our sparkly decorations and sugary treats come the festive period, but luxuries such as chocolate, tinsel, holly berries and leaves could all seriously harm our pets.

Unbelievably, antifreeze is regarded as a sweet and sticky treat for dogs and cats but of course even the smallest dose is deadly.

If you are concerned that your pet has ingested any harmful substance, contact your local vet immediately for professional help. The quicker you act the better.


Hypothermia symptoms and treatments

dog in blanket

Unfortunately, no matter how prepared and vigilant we are, pets can become exposed to the cold for enough time for their body temperature to drop fatally.

Symptoms to look out for include intense shivering followed by lethargy, a faint pulse, exhaustion, muscle stiffness, problems breathing ad lack of appetite. These can then turn to a coma and even cardiac arrest.

Of course it is advised to contact your vet as soon as possible. In the meantime, there are some treatments you can try yourself.

Keep them wrapped in warm blankets/coats in a warm room. Try giving them a sugar solution (four teaspoons of honey / sugar in warm water) or 1-2 teaspoons of syrup on their gums for an instant energy boost if they are too weak to drink.

Do not use any electric forms of heating such as a hair dryer or heater as it can result in burns or cause dilation of blood vessels, which affects circulation to vital organs.

Remember, if it is too cold for you then it is too cold for your pet!


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