Keeping Pets Safe, Healthy and Warm This Winter

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The first couple of months of the New Year can be long, dark, and dreary, so keeping yourself motivated is important. When you start to look around, there are quite a few things to do this January that will benefit you and your pets.

Wrap up warm

Blonde cockapoo wearing a red and white striped jumper, looking up at the camera.

As Alfred Wainwright once said, ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.’  And when your dogs are wilfully looking up at your coat and their lead, they would probably agree! Although, when it comes to bad weather, they need suitable protection as well.

Dogs feel the cold too, and there is now a myriad of dog clothing to choose from to keep them warm and stylish. Your pet may already have a lovely cosy outdoor coat, but if not, why not think about knitting your pawsome friend an awesome winter jacket for those chilly but dry days? And if it rains, you can just pop a waterproof cover over the top. Whatever jacket you decide to make or buy, don’t forget to add a reflective disk or light to ensure your pet is seen at night.

National Dog Walking Month

Feeling sluggish after all those mince pies and turkey dinners? Need a reason to get out on a regular basis? With you and your dog suitably kitted out, there’s no better time to join in January’s National Dog Walking Month. Walking offers many health benefits for you and your fur babies, such as becoming more active, relaxing and de-stressing, and even increasing social connection with other dog walkers and dogs. Whatever the motivation, exercise and a good dose of fresh air can do wonders not only for our physical state but for our mental wellbeing too.

Dogs are eager to make new friends, so why not take a leaf out of their book and whilst you’re out walking strike up a conversation with a fellow dog parent? Maybe you’ll make a new acquaintance too?

Family of three walking with their two dogs in the woods in winter.

Enjoy the great outdoors from indoors!

If you are unable to get outside or just fancy staying on the sofa with your pet curled up on your lap, the great outdoors can come to you. Why not join in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 28-30 January 2022? To participate just register online at https://www.rspb.org.uk to receive your FREE Big Garden Birdwatch Guide and Identification Chart.

From the warmth of your home, you can be part of this fascinating survey. Simply count the number of birds you see land in your garden, on your balcony or outside your window, over the period of 1 hour, and report what you see.  Not only will you learn how to identify different birds but also how best to care for wildlife.

Don’t leave them out in the cold

Looking for a worthwhile project to keep you busy? How about building a cat shelter?
Not all cats are lucky enough to have loving owners and cosy homes. Many feral cats or even cats who are put out when their owners go to work, can find it hard to find shelter in winter months. Why not embark on a project to build a weather-proof shelter at the end of your garden? Even an upturned plastic storage box will make a welcomed dry hidey-hole.

Whatever the type of shelter, find a secluded part of the garden, maybe behind the shed or under a large bush, and turn the unit so it is facing a fence or wall, so the rain doesn’t come in. Ensure it is stable, so it doesn’t fall over and trap the animal inside.

When it comes to making the shelter comfortable inside, make sure to use hay or straw. Both are naturally warm and if they get damp, they dry quickly, unlike blankets or pillows which freeze if they get wet. Your efforts won’t go unnoticed. Maybe you’ll even make a new four-legged friend!

Sponsor a Cat Cabin

If building a shelter is stretching your DIY skills just that little bit too far, you might like to consider sponsoring a cat cabin at Battersea for £5 a month. Your donation will make sure there’s always somewhere safe and warm for lost and abandoned cats to call home whilst they wait to find a family. You’ll also get a welcome pack full of goodies and monthly updates on who’s stayed in your cabin! Click HERE to donate.

Donating to a good cause

Many of us have been fortunate to receive welcomed Christmas presents from loved ones, but occasionally we receive unwanted ones too. Rather than just popping them in a cupboard to be forgotten, why not go online and check out local animal charities that would happily take them off your hands? These charities upload unwanted gifts on selling sites and successfully raise desperately needed funds.

Winter Worries

Cat crouching and licking its lips.

Antifreeze

Winter brings its own seasonal worries and concerns for pet owners, and January often hails the start of bad weather. So, in preparation for the cold weather, motorists are encouraged to carry out winter checks; ensure there is a blanket and torch just in case of a breakdown, top-up windscreen wash with product containing antifreeze, and importantly, add coolant or antifreeze to protect the engine.

Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, a toxic colourless, odourless and sweet liquid, which cats, and some dogs, love to drink. Yes, that right! They like the taste of antifreeze! But many people are unaware of the danger to pets from antifreeze poisoning. Even the smallest amount of antifreeze can cause severe damage to internal organs and is often fatal unless treated extremely quickly.

Keep your pets safe by being vigilant:

  • Always keep antifreeze in clearly labelled, robust, sealed containers, away from pets and their environment
  • Clean up spills immediately, no matter how small. Ensure pets cannot access the area until it’s clean and safe
  • Always dispose of antifreeze and water coolant safely and responsibly
  • Don’t let your dog drink from puddles

Once swallowed, antifreeze quickly starts to take effect and can cause any the following symptoms:

  • Twitchy muscles
  • Twitchy eyes
  • Low energy (lethargy)
  • Vomiting
  • Drinking more than usual
  • Unsteadiness
  • Seizures (fits)
  • Fast, panty breathing
  • Collapse

If you suspect your pet has been exposed to antifreeze, contact your vet immediately. The sooner your pet receives veterinary treatment the better their chances of survival.

Source: PDSA

Hiding under bonnets

Cats love warm places and sometimes choose to crawl under wheel arches and bonnets to enjoy the warmth of a car’s engine. To be on the safe side, always check around the wheels and tap the bonnet before you start the engine. 

Rock Salt

Fluffy cat walking in the icy snow.

When the weather turns to snow and ice, we often breathe a sigh of relief to see the gritting machines out spreading a mixture of salt and grit on the roads. But did you know that Rock Salt used to keep the roads and paths clear of ice, can be highly dangerous to pets if they lick it from their paws or fur?

Each time your pet has been outside, gently wipe their feet and the fur on their legs and tummy with a damp cloth to help remove any salt or grit, checking carefully between their toes for grit or ice balls that may have formed. If they are particularly mucky, use a mild pet-safe shampoo and warm water to wash the affected areas. Make sure your pet’s fur is completely dry after washing and allow them access to a warm place away from draughts.

Signs of Rock Salt poisoning:

  • Thirst
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • In severe cases, convulsions and even kidney failure

If you suspect your pet may have ingested rock salt, contact your vet immediately.

Source: RSPCA Rock Salt Poisoning

In cold weather dogs’ and cats’ pads can quickly become cracked and sore, so check them often. There are many paw balms readily available from pet stores which can be massaged into their pads to keep them nicely hydrated and help provide a protective barrier.

Final thoughts

Despite winter hazards, January and February can be some of the most beautiful months of the year, with snow-capped hills, frozen lakes, and crisp sunny afternoons.

So, enjoy what nature has to offer, but don’t forget to wrap up warm and take a thermos flask!

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