Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Snow day and Winter Care for Pets

We've got snow here today - I'm not sure how thick it is as I haven't been out, but at least an inch or two. By the time I go out the main roads won't be too bad, so I'd like to reassure all my clients that I will get out to all the dogs today!

Things may take longer - including the walks if we're having a lot of fun, but I will get round to everyone!

Winter Care

Young, elderly, ill or infirm dogs may need a coat when out of doors this winter. Wind can be particularly chilling. Short coated dogs may be fine on a walk, but standing still, such as at a training centre or while people chat or have coffee will feel the cold.

Dogs don't need more food in the winter unless they are kept out of doors, so don't be tempted to give extra food. Outdoor water bowls can ice over, and very cold water is not good for dogs. There is a danger of ice burns to the tongue if the bowl is metal and cold enough, or a ceramic bowl can crack. Float a ball in the water to help prevent icing over, bring the bowl in, or empty it on very cold nights.

It can be just as dangerous to leave a dog in a cold car as a hot one – make sure your dog is warm enough if you have to leave them for a short while.

Ice and hail usually lead to gritting lorries. The salt and other materials can irritate your dogs feet, so you may need to give them a wipe over when returning from a walk; try not to let your dogs lick their feet in case they ingest something that could make them ill.

Snow balls can form on long haired dogs. Even shorter haired breeds can gather these on their feet, and once they have formed they need to be left to melt (hairdryers can help if your dog will tolerate it). They are very painful for your dog to walk on, so if you spot them, take the dog home for a break. Vaseline between the toes, and keeping long fur trimmed can help. Leave some fur on, as is will help to protect their pads from frozen ground.

If we get heavy snowfall again this winter, watch out for snow on buildings or trees that might melt and fall – just as your dog is underneath. Check that the height of the snow in the garden doesn't open up an escape route for your dog.

Dogs, but in particular cats, have a great liking for anti-freeze due to its sweet taste. Keep it well away from your pets because it can be fatal.

Cats have a tendency to climb into warm places in winter, and this includes car engines. Please be aware and try to be sure where your cat is before you drive off.

Rabbits and guinea pigs are often left outside in the winter. Rabbits can deal with this as long as they are not in a draught or getting damp. For guinea pigs it’s pure misery! Bring your guinea pigs into a shed or unused garage, and give them, and rabbits, thick newspaper under the bedding to help insulate. Make sure they have plenty of extra bedding, changed more frequently as if it gets wet (either rain or urine), it will freeze. Bubble wrap is your furry friend’s Best Friend. Keep a spare water bottle to hand, and make sure to swap them over if one freezes. Don’t forget to spend time with your pets, even if it is cold and dark outside.

Chocolate and mistletoe are more in evidence at Christmas. Chocolate is toxic to dogs, although they may be able to tolerate a small amount of milk chocolate. Call the vet if you suspect they have been in the Quality Streets – cooking chocolate is much worse, so watch out when chocolate cakes are around. Mistletoe, and in particular the berries, are highly toxic, so make sure they are hung up carefully and can't be pulled down by the dogs. Watch out for fallen berries.

Older pets should have a soft bed with raised sides to protect them from draughts. Dogs can be very stoical so get down on the floor and see how their bed feels.

Arthritic pets may need slower, shorter walks. Not sure if your dog is sore? Do they lick the same spot a lot, are they slow to get out of bed, or stiff and perhaps a little grumpy if disturbed? Some limps are very subtle and may not be noticed. A trip to the vet could make your pet more comfortable.