Caring for your pet in cold weather

Is your cat, dog or rabbit keeping warm enough in the cold weather? Here are our tips for helping them cope as the temperature falls

As the air turns colder, it's important to consider the animals in our lives. Dogs need to be kept warm, particularly when out walking.  The ice and snow on the ground can be painful on paws while grit and salt play havoc with their pads and in between their toes. Cats, on the other hand, are independent and excellent at knowing their own limitations – if it’s too cold, they won’t stay out long!

Dogs

Outdoor exercise and play is fabulous for dogs’ physical and mental health, but there are definitely a few things worth bearing in mind as the temperature drops.

  • Some breeds cope better than others in cold weather. Generally, large thick-coated dogs such as Siberian Huskies and Newfoundlands thrive on a chilly day, whereas some much thinner-coated dogs, for example, Pugs, French Bulldogs and Greyhounds, feel the cold much more
  • Healthy adult dogs are better at regulating their body temperature than very young or old dogs, or those which have health problems

Dog coats

Whilst dogs have their own built-in insulation, there are some breeds that can really benefit from a dog coat if they will be out in cold or wet weather. If you are buying a coat for your dog it’s a good idea to take your dog with you, as most retailers will be happy to let you try on coats for size.  A good coat should protect a dog from the neck to the base of the tail and the tummy area.

Cold weather paws

Some people buy special bootees for their dogs, but this isn’t always necessary unless there is a problem with the paws. Inspect your pet’s feet regularly, look out for grazes, red marks or anything that looks different, and if you are concerned call your vet for advice. 

To help prevent sore paws during cold walks, try using a petroleum jelly such as Vaseline as a barrier on the pads of the feet. Put this on before you leave the house ensuring the dog doesn’t lick it, and wash it off with lukewarm water when you get home. Shorter walks in the winter are safer. Washing your dog’s paws when you get home will get rid of any grit or salt that has accumulated that could cause discomfort and pain.

Cats 

  • Some cats are quite happy to venture out during cold weather, but it is best to make sure they stay in at night, with the cat flap locked once they are home for the evening
  • Make sure you check any garages or sheds regularly to make sure your cat hasn’t got locked in looking for shelter
  • Always make sure your cat has fresh water indoors, in case any outdoor supplies have frozen
  • Check their cat flap frequently during snowy or icy weather to stop the flap becoming blocked or stuck

For both dogs and cats please remember that radiator coolant and anti-freeze are highly toxic. Always keep these sealed and out of reach - and if you spill any, then make sure the area is thoroughly cleaned before letting your pet near it.

Rabbits 

If your rabbits are kept outdoors, they can usually cope with cold weather, as long as their homes are warm and dry. Here’s a few tips to help them stay happy on chilly days:

  • Make sure their home is facing away from the prevailing wind and rain direction. Covers can be added, especially at night, to help keep them protected. You can buy ready-made covers or use old blankets or carpet, ensuring that they can’t chew it. Perspex or plastic covers can be used so that your rabbits can see out. Always make sure they have some ventilation
  • Give your rabbits lots of extra bedding for cold nights, using dust-free hay or straw and newspaper
  • Microwave heat pads or pet safe heaters are a lovely cosy addition for elderly or very young rabbits who still have thin coats
  • Regularly check that their water hasn’t frozen

With an Agria Pet Insurance policy, you can access the free Pet Health Helpline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The veterinary-trained team will advise on any concerns or queries that you may have over your pet’s health – much like the NHS 111 service for people. Call free on 03333 32 19 47.