We often talk about the dangers of hot weather for pets in the Australian summer, but what about the cold?
Frozen bird baths, frozen lawns, and a bed far too warm to climb out of – the harsh conditions of a winter morning are tough enough as a human, but have you ever thought about how this could affect your pets?
Short-haired, older, young, underweight and sick animals are particularly at risk in severe storms and low temperatures. Although our pets wear fur coats, they are just as susceptible to the cold as we are.
Create a safe place to cuddle
You may notice a change in your pet’s preferences over the winter when your cat or dog chooses to sleep next to your heater or under a blanket. It is important to supervise your pet when sleeping near the warmth of a heater or fire – there is a risk of drying out their skin and even getting burned if they sleep too close. Protection around the heaters is recommended not only for the safety of pets but also children.
Be aware of the risks to pets when they are outdoors in cold weather. You need a safe, dry, and warm place, sheltered from the rain and wind, to shelter in the colder months. Pets should be brought indoors in extreme cold. If this is not possible, shelters like dog houses should be large enough to allow the animal to move around while being small enough to hold some body heat. Additional bedding may also be needed to ensure that your pet stays warm.
Note that smaller pets like rabbits and guinea pigs are particularly prone to rapid temperature drops when exposed to cold conditions – warming them indoors is the best protection.
Older animals, animals with health problems such as arthritis, and animals with short fur may need warm, snug fur to maintain their body temperature.
Cats and kittens, and even native animals like possums, can seek out the warmth of car engines. So if you hear strange noises under your hood, get a flashlight and do a good look around before starting the engine.
Of course, when your pets are snuggly, the best way to keep everyone warm is to snuggle up inside!
Farm animals also feel the cold
Maintaining an adequate body weight and housing in a draft-free, dry environment will dramatically improve farm animal welfare.
Community life gives farm animals the opportunity to generate their own warmth. Cattle and sheep crowd side by side and share the heat generated by their bodies, but they still need protection, especially during storms. Adding wind protection like trees can provide some protection during storms, but ideally there should be three-sided shelter for animals to escape the cold, rain, and wind.