From antifreeze to hypothermia – the winter dangers to your pets and how to deal with them

Doctor Richard Murphy from The Vet with one of his patients
Doctor Richard Murphy from The Vet with one of his patients
Promoted by The Vet

Dr Richard Murphy BSC(HONS) BVSC PGCERTSAS MRCVS, a veterinary surgeon from The Vet, North Harbour, answers some common questions about caring for pets during winter.

Hypothermia and frostbite in dogs

If it’s cold and you add a biting wind with a low water temperature, your dog may be at risk of hypothermia if you let them go swimming. Dogs can’t always work out it’s the water making them cold. Obviously small, slim, young and older dogs are more at risk. If they do get into the water or just wet, get them somewhere warm as soon as possible and dry them thoroughly with towels.

Recognise hypothermia signs as them being pale and shivering and, when severe, lethargic and weak. Likewise, frostbite is a hazard for some dogs, especially on their paws, tails and ear tips.

Keep a close eye for the tell-tale signs which looks like blisters and patches of waxy skin. If you see these symptoms bring your dog into The Vet at North Harbour and remember, you don’t need an appointment in the mornings between 8am and 11am.

Caring for hutched pets in winter

When it’s really cold, do check your outdoor pets - ideally three times a day. They’ll need plenty of food and water, as it can freeze when it gets cold. To insulate the hutch, throw over a duvet or some tarpaulin and, if you can, move the hut into a shed or outbuilding for shelter.

Most importantly they need a large amount of dry bedding, preferably straw as it warmer. Rabbits and guinea pigs are social animals and will love to cuddle up and keep warm, but they will still need to be able to get out of their hutch to exercise. If you have chicken huts, be sure not to block off ventilation and check for damp. Also be careful not to pack them in too tightly together as this can cause respiratory infections.

Salt, grit and antifreeze

There’s a very high chance your cats and dogs will walk on salted, gritted roads and in turn ingest it when they lick and clean themselves which can sometimes lead to serious health problems.

Prevention is always better than cure, so give your pets paws, tummy and legs a quick wipe when they come home. Antifreeze is particularly toxic to pets, who unfortunately love the taste of it. The slightest amount can lead to kidney failure and ultimately death.

Carefully clean up any spillages (don’t put any down a garden drain that can be licked) and store antifreeze securely. Go to The Vet ASAP if your pet is vomiting, showing signs of depression, sleepiness, appearing uncoordinated, having seizures or difficulty breathing.

It takes just 30 minutes for these health problems to present themselves after ingesting antifreeze and three days until kidney failure, so get your dog to The Vet as soon as you possibly can if you believe they may have ingested antifreeze.

The Vet provides walk-ins Monday-Friday and appointments 7 days a week and specialises in quality care at low prices, including a low-price guarantee and free pet taxi service to its new state-of-the-art 5,000 sq ft, purpose-built clinic. www.thevet.co.uk or call (023) 9421 7644.