Our top ten winter safety tips for your pets

Winter brings dark nights and cold weather, as well as the bright lights of Christmas! But what does this mean for our furry friends? Let’s take a look at some common winter hazards and the top ten ways that you can keep your pets safe this season.

Prepare for dark mornings and evenings

Road traffic accidents are more likely in the dark winter months so, if possible, try and adjust your walking times to head out with your dog while it’s light. If that’s not possible, make sure you carry a torch and wear high visibility clothing. You can also get items for pets too like reflective collars and harnesses.

Keep safe on winter walks

Don’t forget that streams and rivers become deeper and faster flowing in the winter months, thanks to increased rainfall. This means that their favourite paddling spot can become dangerous, so think about keeping them on a lead if you aren’t sure. Similarly, frozen lakes and ponds can cause problems for unsuspecting dogs. Hypothermia is a real risk to dogs that fall into freezing water.

Look after outdoor animals

Don’t forget that pets living outside will be more susceptible to extremes of temperature. During the winter months, temperatures can drop below freezing so it is important to make provisions for this. For rabbits and guinea pigs, moving hutches into the shed or garage can help greatly. Consider investing in insulation/covers for hutches, provide extra bedding, and think about pet-safe heat pads for your small furries. Check water supplies regularly as bottles r bowls can freeze at very low temperatures.

Take care with antifreeze and road grit

Antifreeze (ethylene glycol) is toxic to cats and dogs, causing acute kidney failure if consumed. Some pets may lap up spillages or accidentally walk through them, licking it off their paws later. As little as a teaspoon can cause problems. Similarly, road grit (rock salt) can get stuck on paws and licked off, causing tummy troubles and electrolyte issues. Rinse your dog’s paws off after a walk if you think they have walked over grit.

Watch out for toxic treats

At this time of year, there are lots of treats and goodies around, but unfortunately, some of these can be toxic to our pets. Chocolate advent calendars, chocolate tree decorations, and chocolate gifts sitting under the tree are all fair game for some curious canines! Theobromine, the active ingredient in chocolate, is toxic to dogs and can cause serious health problems.

Raisins are another potential health hazard causing kidney failure in some animals that consume them. So, keep mince pies, Christmas cakes, and dried fruit mixes well out of reach. Alcohol and xylitol (an artificial sweetener found in some sugar-free products) should also be avoided as they are also toxic to our pets.

Avoid decoration hazards

Trailing tinsel and sparkly baubles can make attractive playthings. However, serious problems can arise if your pet breaks or accidentally eats decorations. Emergency surgery could be required to retrieve foreign bodies like these, so try and discourage your pet from playing with them in the first place. Electric wires should be tidied away to stop inquisitive pets chewing on them. Lit candles should be supervised and kept well out of reach of passing pets. Finally, regularly hoover up fallen pine needles from Christmas trees to stop them from becoming embedded in pet’s paws or accidentally eaten.

Watch their waistlines

We’re not the only ones susceptible to weight gain over the winter months! Cats tend to venture outside less often when it is cold, and bad weather can mean dog walks get cut short too. Reduced exercise coupled with table scraps and extra treats can lead to our pets piling on the pounds. Make sure you stick to your pet’s usual diet as much as possible. If you want to give your pet the occasional treat, we would always recommend using their own food first. Alternatively, you can give low-calorie treats. Please contact us if you would like more information.

Invest in a good coat

We mean for both you and your dog! Most dogs want to go out in all weathers, so invest in a good dog-walking coat and perhaps some waterproof trousers too. Elderly dogs and those with thin coats or low body fat will also benefit from a dog coat to walk in. Keeping your pet warm and dry will not only make walking more pleasant for them but will stop their body temperature from dropping on particularly chilly walks.

Continue with parasite protection

Many owners get complacent when it comes to parasite treatment over the winter months. However, thanks to central heating keeping our homes lovely and warm, we can still see flea infestations all through this season. These small wingless creepy crawlies continue to thrive, causing itchiness, allergies and infections in our pets. Climate change means cold snaps are less common than they used to be, meaning worm eggs continue to survive in the environment, as do slugs and snails carrying potentially fatal lungworms. Keep your pets safe by continuing to use veterinary-approved preventative parasite treatments all year round.

Reduce feline stress

Some cats are very prone to stress, which can lead to behavioural issues, overgrooming and cystitis. New Year’s Eve parties, visiting family, and being shut indoors due to bad weather, can all make our feline friends feel stressed. Try calming agents like plug-in pheromones or veterinary-recommended supplements. Make sure your cat has areas of the house that they can escape to for some undisturbed peace and ensure they have easy access to resources (e.g. litter trays and water bowls).


Winter can be a beautiful time of year and, if you follow our hints and tips, your pet should be able to safely enjoy it too. If you have any concerns about your pet or want to discuss some of the things mentioned in this blog, then don’t hesitate to contact us.

We would always recommend using their own food first. Alternatively you can give low-calorie treats. Please contact us if you would like more information.