Protecting animals when mercury drops

We often talk about the dangers of hot weather for pets in the Australian summer, but what about the cold?

Frozen birdbaths, frosted lawns and a bed that’s far too warm to climb out of – the harsh conditions of a winter morning are hard enough to deal with as a human, but have you thought about how it might be impacting your pets?

Short-coated, elderly, young, underweight and unwell animals are especially vulnerable during severe storms and low temperatures. Despite our pets rocking a fur coat, they are just as susceptible to chilly conditions as we are.

Making a safe place to snuggle up

You might notice a change in your pet’s preferences during winter, with your cat or dog choosing to sleep next to your heater or under a blanket. It’s important to supervise your animal when they choose to sleep near the warmth of a heater or fire – they run the risk of drying out their skin and even receiving burns if they sleep too close. A guard around heaters is recommended, not only for the safety of pets but also children.

Be mindful of the risks for pets if they are outdoors in cold weather. They require a safe, dry and warm place protected from rain and wind to bunker down during the colder months. In extreme cold, pets should be brought indoors. If this isn’t possible, then shelters such as dog kennels should be large enough for the animal to move around while small enough for them to retain some body heat. Additional bedding may also be needed to ensure your animal keeps warm.

Be aware that smaller pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs are especially prone to rapid drops in body temperature if exposed to cold conditions – bringing them into warmth indoors is their best protection.

Older animals, animals with health conditions such as arthritis and those with short fur may require a warm, fitted coat to help them maintain their body temperature.

Cats and kittens, and even native animals like possums, may seek out the warmth of car engines, so if you hear unusual noises coming from beneath your car bonnet, get a torch and take a thorough look before you start the engine.

Of-course, if your pets are smoochy, the best way to keep everyone warm is to snuggle up together inside!

Farm animals feel the cold too

Maintaining adequate body weight and offering shelter in a draft-free, dry environment will drastically improve the welfare of farm animals.

Communal living offers farm animals a chance to create their own heat. Cattle and sheep will huddle beside one another, sharing heat generated by their bodies, but they still require shelter, especially in storms. Establishing windbreaks such as trees can provide some shelter during storms, but ideally three-sided shelters should be available for animals to escape the cold, rain and wind.

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