Winter and Christmas Survival Guide
Please follow this guide to keep your pets safe
We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year
As in humans, older pets can suffer from aching joints which may be made worse by cold, damp weather. Also, with shorter and colder days pets often exercise less during the winter so you will probably need to feed them less to prevent them gaining weight and making the problem worse. Dogs and cats with arthritis may need more medication and additional supplements with glucosamine, chondroitin and essential fatty acids may be useful but don't given these without advice from us first.
We like our pets to join the festivities but Christmas can be a hazardous time for them. Decorations and wrapping are attractive to cats (especially kittens) and puppies and can cause fatal obstructions if swallowed. Seasonal plants can be a problem: mistletoe and holly are toxic, as are lilies especially to cats. Electrocution from chewing through tree light wiring is a risk so tidy away the cables from playful mouths. Most people know about chocolate poisoning but fewer are aware of the risk from raisins, grapes, sultanas, macadamia nuts and onions. Festive foods may contain many of these and can also ferment in the stomach and cause potentially fatal bloat. We see lots of problems at Christmas from over-indulging pets and changing feeding routines can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, and in extreme cases I’ve seen dogs fed on turkey and other left-overs with potentially fatal pancreatitis. It all sounds a bit 'Bah-Humbug' but go easy on the titbits and preferably avoid them altogether!
Rabbits and Guinea Pigs are surprisingly hardy so provided they have windproof and waterproof shelter and plenty of warm bedding, and you change their water frequently so it doesn’t freeze, they should be fine unless it is exceptionally cold, then you may need to bring hutches indoors or at least into a shed or garage.
Hibernating tortoises should by now be safely packed up in a rat-proof box in a cool place. If not it is essential to have them weighed to make sure they have enough reserves or they may no survive the winter so it may be best to keep them awake all winter indoors in an indoor pen with extra heating and lighting to mimic natural daylight but seek advice on this - we have staff with expert knowledge.
In very cold conditions ice crystals can cut dog’s feet and when its milder good old English mud can get stuck between dog’s pads can cause abrasion, so wash their feet when you come back from walks. It is common sense but dogs may run onto ice on deep water and ice in this country is rarely thick enough to support their weight.
Car antifreeze can be attractive to pets, especially cats, and is almost invariably fatal when ingested so be careful with de-icing spray and if you have an older car that still needs topping up with anti-freeze, don’t leave it around in puddles or open containers.
Finally, don’t assume that because it’s cold that fleas and other parasites will go away. They may not breed in colder conditions outside but they thrive in central heating and humid conditions indoors so keep up routine flea control.
St Martins Veterinary Clinic
126 Station Road
Tel.: 01895 444400
Fax: 01895 431520
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