As we've all noticed this week has been especially cold - my car registered -10°C this morning! During this cold snap The Blue Cross have sent us a warning regarding some emergencies they have seen involving gritter salt and antifreeze. The warning comes after several cats died from salt toxicity during the last icy snap. In the last few days a cat also died from suspected antifreeze poisoning.
Mark Bossley, Blue Cross chief vet said: “If it is icy outside and salt is being used to grit your local streets it is wise to keep your cat indoors. Salt is poisonous to cats and it can easily get on their paws or fur and be swallowed when they groom themselves. Watch out for antifreeze too; cats seem to like the taste but it is highly toxic to them. Be vigilant; if your cat appears to be ill always contact your vet as quickly as possible.”
During last winter’s arctic weather, Selina Jones from Mitcham, South London, lost her two-year-old cat Mylo after he licked gritter salt and fell seriously ill.
She said: “He was quite sleepy for a couple of days and kept himself to himself, whereas he usually liked to jump up for a cuddle. But we didn’t realise anything was seriously wrong until he jumped off the bed and collapsed.”
Mylo was rushed to the Blue Cross Hospital in Victoria, London, where veterinary staff diagnosed him with salt toxicity. But despite the best efforts of the vet team, Mylo sadly died.
Miss Jones said: “I wasn’t aware that this could happen, I had no idea it was dangerous. Mylo was a young and healthy cat and we had looked after him since he was a kitten so it broke our hearts to lose him.
“I would just urge other owners to keep an eye on their cats and be aware of the dangers, which can be fatal.”
Top Winter Tips
- When the thermometer dips don’t leave your dog outside unattended – most pet dogs spend a lot of time inside and aren’t used to the extreme cold so could develop hypothermia or frostbite.
- Short-coated breeds, like greyhounds, Dobermans and Chihuahuas really struggle to cope with the cold so make sure they’ve got a cosy doggy jumper or coat on when they go outside.
- If your dog starts lifting up their paws, whining or stopping while out on walks it could well be because their feet are too cold, so it’s a good idea to invest in some boots for them to wear.
- Trim the hair around your dog’s feet to help prevent ice-balls – these form between the pads and toes of the feet and are really painful.
- If you walk on salted pavements wash your dog’s paws after a walk because salt and grit can really irritate their footpads.
- Stay away from frozen ponds or lakes and keep your dog on a lead near frozen water. If they do run on to it, it’s tempting to go after them but it’s really important that you don’t. Most dogs are strong swimmers and are more likely to get themselves out of trouble than you are.
- Don’t be a fair-weather friend – take your dog out in all weathers where possible but be careful in slippery conditions. If you’re elderly, don’t put yourself at risk, keep your dog at home and spend time playing games indoors to stop them from getting too bored or frustrated.
- If your dog is less active during the winter months, don’t forget to cut back a bit on what you feed them.
- When you’re out walking wear bright/reflective clothing so you can be seen by motorists during the dark evenings. You can also get some great reflective gear for dogs too.
- Most cats prefer to snuggle up inside during the winter but if yours is the outdoors type make sure they always have a warm place they can go to at all times. And, if it’s really cold, keep them inside even if they are unimpressed – pet cats aren’t used to the extreme cold and can develop hypothermia and frostbite.
- Cats left outdoors often crawl into a warm car engine to get warm and, when the engine is started up, they can be seriously injured or even killed. They might also venture somewhere they shouldn’t and get trapped without food or water. If in doubt, keep your cat inside.
- Cats that usually go to the toilet outside may need a litter tray inside, especially when there’s snow on the ground. Also, when snow is deep cat flaps can become blocked so you’ll need to check them to make sure that your cat can get out and, more importantly, back in again.
- Make sure your cat is fitted with a microchip so if they do wander off in search of a warm place they can be traced back to you.
Rabbits and guinea pigs
- Hutches should be positioned so that wind, rain, snow or sleet can’t blow in. If the weather’s particularly bad, move the hutch into an unused garage or shed if it’s possible. For guinea pigs, it’s better to keep them inside in winter, in a conservatory or unused garage.
- If your pets need to stay outside, help keep them snug as a bug in their hutch by covering the front with an old blanket or sacking and adding extra straw. Don’t forget you need to change their bedding regularly.
- Check their water bottle regularly because the little ball freezes easily. Press the ball every few hours to keep it moving – you can get specially made bottle covers but you’ll still need to do regular checks.
- Your pet still needs to have access to their run during the day so they can get their regular exercise.
- Cold pets need more calories to keep warm so give them lots of good quality hay to nibble on.
- During the winter foxes and badgers get even hungrier, which makes them bolder than usual. Make sure your hutch is sturdy enough to survive the attention of a determined predator.