Like people pets can suffer from the cold and, in extreme conditions, hypothermia is a risk. With winter approaching it is time to take steps to keep our pets warm and safe.
Follow these tips to keep everyone snug and happy.
Winter Tips For Dogs And Cats
● A bed that is raised from the floor will help to keep our furry friends out of draughts and, snugglesafes and heat reflecting blankets will also help to keep them warm.
● Learn some basic physiotherapy techniques such as massage and range of movement to ease stiff joints in older and arthritic pets.
● Cats may become reluctant to toilet outside when it is cold. Retaining urine can cause cystitis in both sexes and may cause a dangerous condition called blocked bladder in male cats. It is best to provide litter trays.
● Your pets will still need the same amount of exercise over winter. If outside activity is reduced then extra play time should be encouraged, and it may be necessary to feed less.
● Dogs walked near frozen water should be kept on a lead.
● Outdoor cats should have a cat flap, but if this not possible an outside shelter should be supplied with bedding and a snugglesafe.
● Any pet that has got cold and wet outside should be thoroughly dried.
● If the roads have been gritted extra care needs to be taken of sensitive paws. Not only can the grit sting and damage paws, but it can also be toxic when licked. If your pets’ paws have been exposed, bathe them gently in warm water. Dogs may benefit from boots.
● Trim very furry feet to prevent clumps of ice getting stuck in them.
● Antifreeze poisoning is a danger in winter. Although this is more common in cats, it’s not unknown in dogs. If you have any reason to suspect that your pet has ingested antifreeze take them to the pet immediately. Symptoms include vomiting, twitching and head tremors, increased thirst and urination, depression, and a wobbly gait. Other common winter toxins include ivy, holly, poinsettias and raisins.
Winter Tips For Rabbits And Guinea Pigs
Ideally, rabbits and especially guinea pigs should be moved indoors over the winter. If they do remain outside, some simple steps should be taken to keep them warm.
● Before winter heck the hutch is in good condition and make any repairs.
● Move the hutch to the most sheltered area of the garden, close to the house if possible as predators get braver in the winter when food is scarce.
● Hutches should have an enclosed section to provide a warm and safe sleeping area. A snugglesafe or a heat lamp placed here will keep your small furries warm. Avoid hot water bottles as there is a risk of nibbling.
● Extra insulation can be provided by covering the hutch with a thick blanket or newspaper with a tarpaulin on top. This should be held in place by nails or bricks etc. to prevent it from blowing away. Pull it down to cover the front of the hutch overnight and lift it for ventilation in the day.
● Raise the hutch off the floor and line the bottom well. Extra bedding should be provided in the sleeping area (straw is a better insulator than hay).
● Clean hutches daily as when the cover is down ammonia given off from urine will be trapped inside. This will also prevent wet patches or frozen urine in the hutch.
● Exercise inside if possible, but if not make sure the run is placed in a sunny sheltered area. If the run is not attached to the hutch make sure an insulated box is provided for warmth.
● Extra food should be supplied over winter to ensure sufficient body fat.
● To prevent water from freezing commercial bottle covers are available, or wrap the bottle in bubble wrap and cover it with a sock. Give the ball on the snout a little wiggle regularly as this often freezes even when the water doesn’t. If you provide water in a bowl placing it on a snugglesafe or adding a ball to the water will help prevent freezing.
Winter Tips For Tortoises
Not all breeds of tortoise should hibernate, and for some breeds it is fatal. Make sure you know the breed of your tortoise and whether it is suitable for hibernation. Hibernation is always risky and, as illness is so hard to detect in tortoises any suffering from unknown conditions may not make it through the winter. Aside from this, our climate makes it difficult to simulate stable temperatures and injuries from predators always rise in the winter.
Our own exotic vet Alissa recommends that tortoises are kept awake indoors over winter.
● Provide extra food due to reduced metabolism in colder temperatures.
● Provide UV heat lamps.
● Bathe in warm water twice a week for 10 minutes.
If you do decide to hibernate your tortoise research thoroughly. An excellent resource is Reptiles Magazine