As snow and freezing temperatures grip the country, the RSPCA has released advice on how to best care for your pets and ensure they’re safe and warm.

If your dog has short hair, is elderly or sickly, a coat or jumper can keep him warm during walks.

“When walking your dog in the dark, wear reflective clothing and think about a reflective collar or light for his collar to keep you both safe,” the RSPCA advice reads. “Keep your pet dog away from frozen ponds, lakes or rivers which can pose a danger, and make sure their paws don’t get impacted with snow.”

Cats should have “constant access to the house or to a warm, inside area such as an outbuilding or barn with appropriate heating”. You should also ensure the cat’s bedding or sleeping area is warm, dry and away from any draughts. Be very careful to keep your pets away from antifreeze and rock salt, which always make an appearance in freezing weather and can be lethal if ingested.

Pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs are especially vulnerable to the cold, and the advice us to bring them indoors when temperatures are below 15OC.

“If you do bring your rabbits or guinea pigs indoors, they still need plenty of time and room to exercise in a safe and secure environment,” the RSPCA advises. “If you have to leave them outside, you must provide them with lots of extra bedding, such as dust-free hay, and make sure their home is protected from adverse weather. For example, covers can be purchased to help insulate hutches in the winter months, but care must be taken to ensure there is adequate ventilation.”

For rabbits and guinea pigs housed in a hutch, “a sloped roof is preferable to allow water to drain away. Hutches should be raised off the ground by at least four inches and placed in a sheltered position, facing away from wind and rain”. If they become wet, rub them dry with a towel and provide them with warm, dry bedding.

If you have birds in aviaries, runs or coops, you should ensure they have extra food, that their water doesn’t freeze, and to provide extra bedding as well as an enclosure to keep the snow and rain out.

If you have a fish pond, make sure the surface is not frozen, as it could lead to a build-up of harmful gases in the water beneath. If the surface freezes, melt it by placing a saucepan with hot water on it. Never pour hot water directly on it, use antifreeze or rock salt, or try to punch through the surface, as this could harm the fish.

Snowy weather can be a lot of fun for you and your pets – especially for your dogs! – but it does presents risks, and it’s always best to err on the side of caution to ensure your pets can safely enjoy the snowy day.

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