As winter fast approaches, with the days getting shorter and temperatures getting colder, it’s as important as ever to ensure your pet is well prepared for the winter season ahead.

Prevention is better than cure, so keeping an eye on your pet’s weight and behaviour could help to indicate if there are any issues brought on by the change in the weather.

To help ensure all pet owners understand the various seasonal threats posed to our cats and dogs, MSD Animal Health veterinary surgeon Hannah Newbury shares her top tips on how to care for them this winter.

  1. Protect your dogs’ paws

Chemicals used to melt snow and ice, along with grit and mud, can be very irritating to your dogs paw pads, and if left unwashed can cause a burning sensation which you’ll notice will leave your dog gnawing at its paws. Therefore, it is essential to regularly bathe paws after a cold winter walk to remove these irritants along with any bugs or bacteria that can easily get in to the skin causing further problems at this time of year.
2. Lock away the anti-freeze

Cats are often attracted to anti-freeze because it’s said to possess a sweet taste however, exposure to anti-freeze, particularly for cats, is exceptionally dangerous and in some circumstances can cause kidney failure and death. If your cat starts to display any signs of ill health including sudden weight loss, diarrhoea and vomiting, pay an immediate visit to your vet.

    3. Be mindful of the risk of hypothermia

Although it differs between breeds and ages, pets can suffer from hypothermia too, so be mindful of the amount of time your pet spends outdoors and how active it is during freezing temperatures. If you notice that your dog has pale gums and pale inner eyelids, these are two signs that your pet could be suffering from hypothermia. Ensure your pet is kept warm in cold weather and if you suspect they have become too cold, speak to your veterinary practice and treat your pet as you would a human, by feeding them warm liquids and wrapping them in warm blankets.

   4. Ensure all your pets are up-to-date with tick and flea treatments

Despite us often thinking fleas are more of a problem in summer, due to warmer winter temperatures and central heating, there is still a risk that your pet can catch fleas all year round. Therefore, practising continual year-round flea protection is key to not only keeping your pet healthy but also to avoid any flea infestations in the home throughout winter.

   5. Keep an eye on food consumption

Making sure your pet maintains a healthy weight throughout the winter is also very important, and while it’s often true that an extra layer can help protect pets from the cold, this should come from a coat and not an additional layer of fat. Cold temperatures can sometimes prompt lazy behaviour and therefore the need for fewer calories. However at the same time, you should also be monitoring your pet for any signs of unusual weight loss too. If you have any concerns about your pet’s weight, be it either weight gain or loss, then speak to your veterinary practice team for further advice.