How to keep your dogs and cats cosy in winter

As temperatures across the country plummet, Battersea is offering advice to dog and cat owners to help keep their much-loved pets warm this winter.

Steve Craddock, Centre Manager at Battersea said: “Just like humans, some of our pets will need a little extra care over the colder months to help keep them feeling their best. Elderly dogs and cats, or those with short coats, may especially struggle during this time. Owners should also be wary of some risks that come with winter – things such as anti-freeze or freezing weather can be very dangerous for dogs and cats, and it’s vital that we stay alert in order to keep our pets as safe as possible.”

Wrap up warm

Just as it’s important for humans to wrap up warm on winter walks, it’s also important to make sure that our dogs are dressed appropriately for colder weather. Short-coated breeds, such as Staffies or Greyhounds, and elderly dogs would benefit from a warm waterproof coat. If your dog struggles with colder weather, consider taking them on a shorter walk than normal.

Keep them warm and dry

We don’t like being wet and muddy, and neither do our pets. Dry off your dog or cat if they are wet or muddy to keep them from becoming ill, and make sure you provide somewhere cosy and warm for them to curl up and rest, especially if they are older.

Check their paws

During winter, it is especially important to check in between your pet’s toes after they’ve been outside. Any salt and grit on the roads and pavements could get stuck in between paws and cause them to become chapped and irritated. Furthermore, if your pet licks grit off their paw, it could make them very unwell.

In the event of snow, check your pet’s paws and dry the thoroughly after they’ve been outside. This is especially important with long-haired animals as they are prone to snow compacting between their toes and turning into ice balls which can prove very painful. If they are good at handling, you could trim the long hair between your dog’s toes to help prevent this.

Playtime

Some pets will be content to spend their usual amount of time outdoors, come rain or shine, but other may become more inclined to stay indoors a little more when the weather takes a turn for the worst. A good way to keep your pet stimulated when they’re not spending as much time outside is to provide them with toys and games to keep them entertained, such as a play tunnel, scratching post or ball game for cats and chew toys or food puzzles for dogs.

Avoid antifreeze

One of the biggest and most common dangers that cats face in winter when freezing temperatures hit is coming in to contact with antifreeze, which can result in serious illness or even death. Ethylene glycol, a chemical compound found in antifreeze, is commonly used during the winter to prevent freezing and is frequently used in car radiators, screen washes and de-icers, as well as in garden water features to stop them freezing over. Cats seem to be attracted to the ‘sweet’ taste of this chemical which can prove deadly if they ingest in even a small amount.

Leaving antifreeze where cats can get to it not only puts your own pets at risk but also any strays or neighbours’ cats in the area. Owners should be aware of any signs that their cat may have come in to contact with antifreeze and take them to the vet immediately. Symptoms include vomiting, increased thirst, appearing sleepy or disorientated, frequent toilet trips, faster breathing rate and seizures.

Check your car

Cars can pose several risks to cats, particularly during the cold, dark months. Cats (and other small animals) have a dangerous habit of crawling under car bonnets to enjoy the warmth from the engine so you should always tap the hood of a car before starting the engine. This will hopefully disturb any stowaways and encourage them to move on to a safer spot.

For more advice on winter pet care, please visit www.battersea.org.uk.