As temperatures plummet, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home in Brands Hatch is offering pet owners advice to keep their dogs and cats safe and warm this winter. The cold, or sometimes freezing, weather can lead to a variety of problems for pets, so it is vital to make sure measures are in place to keep them happy and healthy throughout the colder months

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 them 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 with handling, you could trim the long hair between your dog’s toes to help prevent this.

PROVIDE LOTS OF TOYS

Some pets will be content to spend their usual amount of time outdoors, come rain or shine, but others 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.

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.

WRAP UP WARM

When going out for a walk, it’s important to make sure that your dog is wrapped up warm in a waterproof coat. This is especially important if your dog is elderly or if you have a short-coated dog, such as a Staffie or Greyhound.

If your dog isn’t coping with the cold weather, consider taking them for a shorter walk than normal.

HAVE A NIGHT IN

Try to keep your cat indoors as much as possible in the colder evenings so they are safe from the traffic in conditions with reduced visibility.

PROVIDE A LITTER TRAY

Even if your cat normally always goes outside when nature calls, it may be worth considering providing a litter tray during the coldest months. This gives your cat the option to do their business in the comfort of their own home without having to venture out into freezing temperatures if they don’t want to.

ADJUST THEIR FOOD IF NECESSARY

Some animals may be less active in winter months and will need their food intake reduced, while others may burn off weight trying to keep warm in the colder weather. If you’re worried about your pet’s food consumption speak to your vet.

AVOID USING 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.

NEVER LEAVE YOUR DOG IN THE CAR UNATTENDED

Just as cars can become fatally hot in summer months, temperatures can drop very quickly in cold weather. Always take your dog with you rather than leaving them in the car for any length of time.

STAY AWAY FROM FROZEN LAKES AND RIVERS

Keep your dog away from stretches of frozen water as it’s impossible to tell how secure the surface is. Keep them on a lead if you think they’ll be tempted to jump in.

MAKE SURE YOUR MICROCHIP IS UP TO DATE

Your cat’s microchip should always be up to date, but this is especially important over the winter months where they are more likely to wander off to find the nearest warm place. It is a legal requirement for your dog to be microchipped and we’d always advise people to microchip their cats.

  • In addition to the site in Brands Hatch, Kent, Battersea also has two other centres based at Old Windsor, Berkshire and South-West London.
  • For further information on Battersea, please visit www.battersea.org.uk.
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