With many areas of the UK experiencing snowfall in the last few days pet emergency provider Vets Now, along with other veterinary practice, are bracing themselves for a busy spell as the Met Office has issued a fresh yellow weather warning for ice.
Extreme wintry weather is a threat to our pets, with dogs, cats, rabbits and other small pets all at risk during adverse weather. Common issues emergency vets will treat include; cats and dogs suffering from frostbite on paws, breathing difficulties from dogs who have short-noses and pets injuring themselves due to icy and slippery surfaces, or injuries on snow-covered hazards such as rocks.
Vets Now head of veterinary standards, Dr Laura Playforth said: “When the weather turns, pets and their owners need us more than ever. Heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures pose a serious threat to your pet. Whilst we are always here to give your pets the best possible care in the event of an emergency, we would like to help in any way we can to prevent these emergencies from ever happening in the first place. We’ve produced some advice to help you protect your pet and prevent unwanted illness or injury.”
1. If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet
Keep your pets inside, especially overnight, when temperatures plummet, otherwise they run the risk of getting frostbite or hypothermia. If your pet is showing signs of either of these, contact your vet immediately. Remember, too, that temperatures indoors can also plummet. If you’re out, try to make sure temperatures in your home can never fall below a reasonable level (around 20C).
2. Go on shorter, more frequent walks
It’s worth considering taking your dog on shorter, more frequent walks to protect them from weather-associated health risks.
3. Wash and dry your pet’s feet following walks
Salt and chemicals used to grit roads and pavements can be an irritant to your dog’s pads, especially if they have any small cracks or redness between the toes, so always wipe their paws with a cloth and warm water when you get home.
4. Beware of antifreeze
Antifreeze poisoning is a major hazard during cold snaps, especially if it leaks from a car’s radiator or spills on the ground while being sprayed on frozen car windows. Remove ice from vehicles using an old-fashioned scraper, keep containers of antifreeze out of reach and clean up any spills quickly.
5. Swot up on your dog’s breed
Just like humans, some pets, such as husky dogs and Persian cats, are more tolerant to cold weather than others. Make sure you do your homework on your breed. For example, Dobermans, Chihuahuas and Great Danes require a little extra protection in the cold. Short-nosed pets are also more at risk from extreme temperatures due to inherited breathing difficulties.
6. Consider a sweater or coat
It’s a myth that dogs and cats are more resistant than people to cold just because they have fur. Even long-haired pets are at risk in cold weather. Consider putting a dry sweater on your pet before going outside and always take spares in case they get wet.
7. Make sure your pet is wearing a collar and is microchipped
Pets are more at risk of becoming lost and disoriented in snowy conditions. Ensure your dog identification tag and microchip details are up-to-date and relevant.
8. Beware of heat stroke
Believe it or not, short-nosed dogs, in particular, are at risk of suffering heat stroke if they exercise vigorously in freezing temperatures and then settle in a warm house.
9. Avoid icy lakes and ponds
Steer clear of water that has frozen over. There is no guarantee it will support the weight of your pet and they may fall in.
10. Watch out for icy steps, roads and pavements
Older pets, particularly those with arthritis or mobility issues, are at risk of slipping and injuring themselves on slippery surfaces, especially steps or when jumping in or out of vehicles.
11. Make sure your pet has access to fresh water
It may be obvious but you should always check your dog’s water bowl regularly and fill it up whenever it’s low. You should also be careful not to let your pet’s water bowl freeze over.
12. Beware of hazards covered in snow
Our emergency vets have treated pets who have injured themselves falling into potholes covered in snow or from snow-laden rocks and steps.
13. Be prepared for cold weather
If the weather forecasters predict an extreme cold snap or snow, make sure you have a pet emergency plan in place. This includes stocking up on food and any prescription medication, knowing who to call in an emergency and how you might travel to the vet in an emergency.
We hope these tips helps. If you ever have any concerns or worries we recommend speaking to your local vet. Premium members also benefit from 24/7 access to our Vet Line for support and advice around the clock.