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Your Pets And Advice For Winter

author: Esme Campbell BVetMed MRCVS - 27 October 2021

Winter is coming…

As the nights are drawing in and the temperature is dropping, I’ve been starting to think about the chilly months ahead and how it affects our pets.

Spooky season

Not all of us are fans of Halloween, and the same can be said for our pets! I’d advise walking dogs earlier in the evening if they are likely to be scared by Halloween outfits and decorations. Keep cats indoors on Halloween night if possible, as they may be spooked and run away.

Fireworks are another common fear (and a whole topic in themselves!). Again, walk dogs earlier, keep cats in and bring outdoor pets inside if possible. Try to establish safe cosy spaces for your pets well ahead of the firework season so they can get used to feeling comfortable there. Several pheromone plug ins and herbal sprays are available to reduce stress, but please do contact your veterinary practice if you feel your pet may need something a bit stronger as there are lots of options available.

Winter walkies

Arthritis can flare up in cold damp weather – signs include stiffness (particularly when getting up after a snooze), lameness or changes in gait, overgrooming, and changes in behaviour. It’s a painful inflammatory condition so most pets suffering with arthritis would benefit from anti-inflammatory medicines prescribed by a vet. Maintaining a normal to lean body condition is also important; if your pet is exercising less remember to reduce their food accordingly. Please contact your vet if you have any questions about arthritis.

As it gets slippery outside, watch out for ice and rock salt building up between the toes. This can be be painful and cause lameness and skin wounds, so check and clean your dog’s feet after icy walks.


There are plenty of forbidden fruits around at this time of year – grapes, raisins and sultanas can all cause kidney failure in dogs and cats. The toxic dose varies between individuals so contact your vet if you suspect even one fruit has been eaten. Chocolate is a commonly known toxin. Alcohol should be kept out of pets’ reach – as should any human medicines including paracetamol (extremely toxic to cats) and ibuprofen (can cause kidney failure in dogs and cats). Lilies and antifreeze are extremely toxic and can be fatal. Common gastric or intestinal foreign bodies at this time of year include bones, ribbon, tinsel and baubles so keep these out of reach too!

Pancreatitis is a condition which we see a lot of around Christmas time- rich or fatty scraps of food can trigger this severe inflammation in the pancreas, best avoided!

Outdoor pets

Lastly outdoor pets like rabbits and guinea pigs should be moved indoors if possible as they are very susceptible to the cold. If this is not possible, plenty of bedding should be available and water sources should be checked regularly to make sure they’re not frozen. Consider using non-chewable heat pads in very cold weather, especially in pets who live alone.


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