Keep pets cosy during the winter months

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With winter around the corner, it’s worth remembering our pets in the colder weather. They generally don’t seem to get the coughs and colds that we get, but cats, dogs and rabbits all need extra care.

Rabbits housed outside are at real risk of hypothermia. The temperatures drop, and they are less active, meaning they generate less body heat.

Make sure they have lots of bedding materials – straw and hay are best – and sometimes covering hutches with sheets or blankets for extra insulation can make a real difference.

They should be checked at least a couple of times daily. Ensure they have a good supply of water as water bottles can freeze quickly, leaving pets cold and thirsty.

If you have a pond with fish, make sure it doesn’t completely freeze over. Make a hole in the ice to ensure the fish can breathe.

Cats also feel the cold. They are naturally desert animals and are not designed to cope well with harsh weather. If they spend a lot of time outdoors, make sure they have access to a cat flap or shelter.

It is also very important to be careful with anti-freeze. This has a sweet taste which cats seem to find palatable. Ingestion leads to rapid kidney failure and usually death.

Dogs generally cope well with most weather, but house pets and older animals may feel the cold more.

If there is snow or ice on the ground, check your dog’s paws after a walk and ideally give them a rinse with warm water, then dry.

It’s not uncommon for dogs to get sore paws either from the cold, or as a reaction to salt on pavements.

All pets affected by arthritis will feel more sore in cold and damp weather. It is a great idea to buy a coat for an older dog to try to keep the joints warm.

Keeping pets moving with small amounts of frequent exercise is also helpful.

If you see your pet appearing more stiff, don’t hesitate to visit your vet. If appropriate, a pain relief medicine can be prescribed.

You would hope that the plus side to cold weather would be that fleas would not thrive, but as soon as we turn on our central heating they are very happy.

With this in mind, make sure you don’t stop your prophylactic flea control.

Wrap up warm and enjoy the beautiful winter weather as it’s great for cosy cuddles with your furry friends.

By Catriona Gibson, Vet