COLUMN: Keep your pets warm this winter

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The clocks have gone back and the days are growing shorter and darker – which can mean only one thing – winter is here.

It’s a time of year when we all like to wrap up warm, animals included. Here are some tips to make sure your pets enjoy the colder months. Sometimes it’s the smallest things that make the greatest difference.
For dogs, it may not be all that inviting for you in the winter, but it’s important to continue exercising your pooch.

You and your dog should wear reflective clothing or use lights to ensure you’re visible to traffic.

Keep your dog away from frozen ponds and lakes as they could be dangerous, and keep an eye on their paws for impacted snow which can cause discomfort. 
For horses and livestock, if kept outside they’ll need access to shelter, fresh water and food.

Check hooves regularly for problems such as abscesses and loose shoes, and legs, for any signs of mud fever. Owners should ensure horses have access to a dry resting area.

Arrange a regular routine for visiting and caring for your equine and make arrangements with an experienced person to take care of your horse if you’re unable to attend or in the event of an emergency.

For cats, ensure your cat has constant access to the house or to a warm, inside area like an outbuilding or barn with appropriate heating. Make sure the cat’s bedding or sleeping area is warm, dry and away from any draughts.

For small pets and birds, keep a close eye on any outdoor pets - such as rabbits, guinea pigs and aviary birds – and provide them with extra bedding to snuggle into.

Move them into a shed or unused garage for extra shelter if possible but never house them in greenhouses. If your rabbit or guinea pig gets wet, rub them dry with a towel and make sure they have plenty of warm bedding.

For pond fish, check the pond every day for ice as toxic gases can build up in frozen water and may kill fish or frogs. If it freezes over, carefully place a saucepan filled with hot water on the surface to melt a hole – but never tip boiling water directly onto the ice or break it with force as this could harm the fish. And never try to use antifreeze or salt to thaw frozen ponds or birdbaths.

To help the RSPCA to continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals in desperate need of care, and to support our winter Love Animals, Hate Cruelty campaign, visit: www.rspca.org.uk/wintercampaign.