Walkies in a winter wonderland: taking care of your pet during the festive season

Can you believe it’s nearly time to decorate your tree, eat one too many mince pies and fall asleep in front of a festive episode of Only Fools And Horses once again? Speaking of fools, only a particularly foolish person would forget to ensure their pet was properly looked after when the nights draw in and the temperature plunges. Elm House Vets have put together their top tips for a variety of pet species this winter, so keep reading for some good advice on keeping your companion cosy in the cold weather.

Dogs are generally pretty good at making you believe they are fine, when in fact they may be suffering in the cold weather. Remember that your canine companion spends more time inside than out, so ensure they only spend short periods outside in wintry weather. Shorthaired breeds such as greyhounds, beagles and Chihuahuas especially feel the cold, so invest in a coat or jumper to help keep them warm. Take care of your pooch’s paws in icy conditions as well by trimming the hair around their feet to avoid ice-balls forming around their toes and pads.

When it comes to cats, most will finds somewhere to snuggle up in your house during the winter. If they still like to spend time outside despite the wintry conditions, make sure there is always a warm spot available for them to return to. If the weather is particularly cold, keep your feline friend indoors – no matter how much they protest, it’s better than them developing serious conditions such as frostbite and hypothermia. It’s also worth investing in a litter tray for the winter months, especially when there’s snow on the ground outside.

Rabbits, guinea pigs and other smaller animals who generally live outside need extra care to protect them from the elements during the winter months. Hutches should be position so that wind, rain, sleet and snow aren’t able to blow in. Better still, move the hutch into a sturdy shed, conservatory or garage (one which isn’t being used for cars) for the cold season. Add extra insulation by increasing your pet’s bedding and cover the outside with sacking or an old blanket. Don’t forget to regularly check for frozen water bottles too.

As the winter season brings plenty of opportunities to get together and do something different– Guy Fawkes Night, Christmas, New Year and more. But don’t forget that, no matter what species your pet is, as far as they are concerned life is going on as normal. If you have unfamiliar faces coming into your home, ensure your pets are not alarmed by the increase in people and noise and the disruption of usual routines. Equally, don’t neglect your pet’s usual needs – they still need a regular diet and exercise schedule, as well as care and attention from you as their owner.

Just as it’s easy for you to overindulge at Christmas and New Year, so can your pet if you’re not careful. The rich foods traditionally eaten at this time of year are not designed for animal digestive systems, and turkey bones are a choking hazard for dogs and cats. Stray tinsel can sometimes be too sparkly and interesting for your pet to resist swallowing, but will often require surgery to remove. If you have a traditional Christmas poinsettia plant, don’t forget that they are poisonous to both dogs and cats too.

Winter may offer up a different set of potential issues than during other seasons, but caring for your pet is just the same as it is at any other time of year. Be vigilant, be sensible and be as caring as you always are, and you and your pet can enjoy a wonderful winter season together.

If you would like any more information on the advice in this article, or about generally caring for your pet this winter, please speak to a member of the team at Elm House Vets.