1/8/2019 12:00:00 AM
It's been a relatively mild winter so far, but temperatures have been falling in many parts of the country -- and spring still feels a long way off.
As the weather turns more wintry, vets are urging pet owners to take extra precautions to make sure their dogs, cats and other small pets are kept safe from hidden and potentially fatal hazards.
Remember: if it's cold for you, it's cold for your pet, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) says.
As with humans, pets can fall ill if they are exposed to extremely cold temperatures for extended periods.
Take your dog for shorter walks, but more frequently if required, and consider putting a coat on old dogs or those with thin fur to keep them warm.
Watch out for your dog's paws becoming impacted with snow, which can cause discomfort, the RSPCA advises.
You should also be aware that antifreeze and rock salt can be poisonous to pets. Wipe your dog's paws and belly on returning home from a snowy walk to remove any ice or salt, and regularly check for cracks in paw-pads or for redness between the toes.
It's important that your cat has access to a warm environment, such as your home or another inside area with appropriate heating. When the weather is particularly cold, keep older cats indoors and ensure that even healthy young cats have easy access to shelter and warmth.
If you use antifreeze, store it safely and clean up any spillages immediately. Even the smallest amount of antifreeze can cause kidney failure and death when ingested by cats, according to the RSPCA.
Outdoor pets, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, need extra bedding in the winter months. Make sure their home is protected from snow, frost and rain by using covers or blankets, but take care to ensure there is adequate ventilation.
Don't forget to check their water bottle or bowl regularly, as these can freeze when the temperature drops.
If the weather becomes very cold, consider moving outdoor pets into an outhouse, shed or unused garage.
"Extreme cold weather calls for extra precautions to keep our furry friends warm and safe. Even simple things like leaving your dog outside a shop in this weather whilst you pop in for a bit or putting your cat out all night can risk a range of avoidable illnesses," explained BVA president, Simon Doherty. "Domestic rabbits and guinea pigs are also vulnerable to hypothermia despite their warm coats, which is why owners need to be vigilant and take steps to ensure their hutches are protected from the snow, cold draughts and winter rain. If owners have any concerns about their pet in this cold weather, they should consult their local vet for advice."