Winter hazards for your pet

4 December 2023


As the temperature starts to drop, there are many things that can be hazardous for your pets this winter. Here are our top tips for keeping your pets safe and happy over the winter period.

Antifreeze poisoning

Antifreeze is highly toxic to our pets, with a greater risk of antifreeze poisoning in the winter. Even the smallest amount can cause kidney failure and prove fatal if they drink any, particularly in cats. It can take up to 30 minutes for the signs of poisoning to show, with symptoms such as vomiting, uncoordination, sleepiness, seizures, and difficulties breathing1.

Clean any antifreeze spills up immediately and check your car for water coolant leaks. Always store it safely and dispose of any antifreeze responsibly.

Rocksalt poisoning

Rocksalt which is a mixture of salt (sodium chloride) and grit, can cause irritation and injury to dog’s paws and can make them ill if they lick it off. Wipe your dog’s paws when you get back from a winter’s walk to remove any ice or salt and regularly check for cracks and bleeding in paw pads. If you suspect that your dog or cat has ingested any salt, you will need to contact your vet immediately.

Cats and cars

Cats often take shelter under cars and in the wheel arch above tyres in cold weather to try and soak up the warmth. Before you set off for any journey, check around your car and slam a car door or knock on the bonnet before starting the engine2.

Outside housing

Your rabbit’s and guinea pig’s sleeping area should be well-insulated, waterproof, and draught-free. Make sure to provide plenty of extra bedding, and during very cold weather, a pet-safe heat pad can be given. Check the water bottles regularly to make sure the water has not frozen. If your rabbits are old, young, or thin, consider bringing their hutch indoors.

Existing health conditions

Cold weather can worsen the symptoms of some existing conditions, such as arthritis. In cold weather, walk dogs for less time and consider putting a coat on old dogs, those with thin fur, or those with health conditions. It’s advisable to keep older cats inside during bad weather.

Frozen lakes

If you take your dog for a walk near any frozen lakes, be careful when letting them off the lead and make sure that they stay close to you. Frozen lakes and ponds can be very dangerous; the ice can be sharp and injure their paws, they could also slip over or even fall into the lake, causing risk of hypothermia and drowning. If your dog does fall into a lake, don’t go in after them. Encourage them to swim to you if possible or try using their lead or a stick to help pull them from the water3.

If you are ever in doubt about any of the above, contact your vet for advice.