Suzhy Winfield RVN of VetSavers offers her advice
The winter months are upon us again, so with the arrival of the cold weather and seasonal celebrations, we thought we’d look at how the winter months affect pets.
Central heating is a must for most of us in the winter months and many a pet also enjoys the bliss of laying in front of a fire or wood burner too. Unfortunately, flea eggs also love the warmth that now envelops homes, so if cats and dogs have not been treated with a preventative flea treatment that sterilises flea eggs, you may be joined by some unwanted house guests… Nights will be considerably colder, so owners of mice, guinea pigs etc… as well as birds, should consider covering cages with a warm blanket overnight to retain heat. Reptile tanks will also require increases in ambient temperatures, or for them to be moved away from areas where heat is lost, such as windows and doors.
Itchy and scratchy
Seasonal scented flowers, candles and plug-in diffusers also tend to come out at this time of year and are a common cause of skin allergies along with dust mites, fleas and mould. If you see your pet chewing at their paws, rubbing its face, shaking its head and ears or generally scratching excessively after the introduction of any of these types of products, you should stop using them immediately and seek advice from your vets. If you want to treat your cat this Christmas (or simply distract them from destroying the Christmas tree), buy them an extra tall scratching post, so that they can fully stretch up it and get maximum enjoyment. And for any cat that still needs a bit of persuasion deploy Dad’s Monopoly tactic (ie cheat…) – a sprinkling of catnip should do the trick!
Planning a party and have animals that get nervous or scared by strangers, large groups or loud noises (this can also manifest as aggression or attention seeking behaviour)? Or do you have a new furry addition to the family? During parties, ensure your pet has a quiet area where it can be away from people if it wants. Dogs – especially when they are young – tend to like a small space they can call their own, so using a dog crate and covering with a blanket in a quite room is ideal. Remember, it’s not just floor space that can seem huge when you are that small but also the height to the ceiling. Young pets often also find a warm hot water bottle or soft toy that they can cuddle up to comforting, some also like a ticking clock as the rhythmic noise can be comforting like their mother’s heart beat. Investing in a pheromone diffuser may be a good option for both young and old cats and dogs, these simply plug into an electrical socket and emit an odourless pheromone that calms and reduces pet stress.
Turning our attention to outside… Frosty winter walks with your dog can be magical, but dangerous if near water. Always walk dogs on the lead when near water during periods of low temperatures as ice does not always freeze evenly leaving weak spots in what may appear a solid surface. Even once temperatures rise, ice takes longer to defrost on larger expanses of water and snow can mask the water’s true edge. Dog coats are readily available in a wide variety of sizes, colours, styles and prices. This can make a dog that becomes resistant to being walked in the cold enthusiastic again. Reflective/LED collars and accessories can also provide peace of mind when walking dogs off the lead in poorly-lit areas or for locating the family cat that does not want to come in at night and is hiding in the garden.
Outside guinea pigs should be moved indoors for the winter months and you may want to consider moving outside rabbits into sheds or garages. They should always have increased amounts of hay in their bedding area during these periods. You can prevent water bottles from freezing by purchasing specially designed protective covers, however you should still inspect the spout daily for blockages. Gritted paths and roads can cause contact allergies and make animals ill if the grit is consumed, so if you know your pet comes into contact with grit you should ensure you bathe their paws or protect them against contact using paw covers/boots. And lastly, always keep antifreeze well out of your pet’s reach, it tastes delicious to them, but is deadly. We hope you and your family have a truly wonderful winter!
VetSavers Cardea Unit 2 Bellona Drive Cardea Peterborough PE2 8GP Tel: 01733 889236 VetSavers Hampton Dobbies Garden Centre, Cygnet Park, Hampton Peterborough PE7 8NY Tel: 07707 994966 Emergencies only: 01733 562904