Saturday April 21st 2018

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Is Your Dog Keeping Warm This Winter?

Pets are susceptible to hypothermia in the freezing temperatures and with warnings of Siberian temperatures as low as -11C predicted in the coming weeks, PDSA, the UK’s leading veterinary charity, is urging pet owners to take precautions to protect their four-legged friends from the worst of the weather.

Despite their warm fur coats, our pets are not immune to the effects of frost and snow, the charity warns.  “It’s easy for owners to put on a coat and gloves to keep themselves snug and warm, but it’s not that simple for our pets,” said PDSA Senior Veterinary Surgeon Sean Wensley. “Understanding the risks, and taking correct precautions, is the best way for owners to ensure their pets are kept safe and healthy during the cold weather.”

Hypothermia is a real risk at this time of year and it can develop very quickly – only a few minutes in freezing temperatures can cause a pet’s body temperature to plummet to dangerous levels.


Danger signs

The first sign that a pet is cold is shivering, although this will stop if their temperature falls dangerously low.   Further signs include cold ears and feet, subdued or confused behaviour, and a pet’s heart rate and breathing may also become slow or irregular.  If not treated immediately hypothermia can be fatal, so acting quickly and correctly is vital.

If owners notice any of these signs, they should swiftly move their pet into warm, but not hot, surroundings as warming up too quickly can be harmful.  They should call their vet immediately and follow any advice given.

Sean advises, “If a pet is showing signs of hypothermia, their body temperature needs to be raised gradually.  Owners should first ensure their pet is dry – rub them gently with a towel if they are wet. They could then use a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel, or a hair dryer on a low heat kept at a distance, to gently warm their pet.  If a very cold pet seems to fully recover, they should still be taken to the vet for a thorough check up.”


Prevention is always better than cure, so make sure your pets always have access to shelter and warmth, and keep a close eye on them when outdoors. Pets that are young, old or unwell are less able to control their body temperature and are particularly susceptible to the cold. They should be wrapped up well and only taken out when necessary for short periods.   Dogs with thin fur should wear a suitable dog coat when out in colder weather.  It is also recommended that cats are kept indoors overnight and not left out for long periods of time during the day.

Never leave pets in cars or unheated conservatories and caravans during cold weather, as the temperature can drop very rapidly.  Take dogs on shorter walks more often, but avoid doing this during darkness if possible, when the temperatures are likely to be at their lowest.

Smaller pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs also need to be protected from the cold – a warm shed or car-free garage is ideal – but remember they will still need access to light during the day and a safe area to exercise in.  Provide lots of extra bedding to keep them warm and check water bottles daily to make sure they aren’t frozen. Rabbits and guinea pigs should be kept in same species pairs, so their warm bedded area should be large enough for both animals to huddle together to share body heat.

For further tips on winter pet care visit


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