With the arrival of winter come chillier temperatures and a range of associated health risks. However, by promoting the importance of winter pet care, you can help keep more pets happy and healthy all winter long.

Certainly, many parts of Australia stay fairly warm for most of the year. Yet, this can trick pet owners into thinking their dog or cat is at no risk of hypothermia. Whereas, the truth is that while most pets can tolerate temperatures between 12-15 degrees, when they fall below 10 degrees they may be at risk.

Signs of hypothermia and who’s most at risk

When the thermometer falls below 10 degrees, it’s important for pet owners to be aware that their fur babies may need some extra help to stay warm and safe.

PETstock vet Dr Sasha Nefedova says, “Pets should have the option to come indoors in winter and not spend too much time outdoors in the cold. Some pets are more physically prepared for colder weather than others. For example, a Husky will fare better in the cold than a Yorkshire Terrier.”

Indeed, as pet professionals, you can educate your clients on which pets are at the most risk. The risk may be associated with the breed, the animal’s health status, type of coat, and age. Certainly, it’s a good idea to ensure owners are aware that older pets and smaller breeds are at a higher risk of hypothermia.

“Pet owners should use their common sense and look out for the tell-tale signs of discomfort, including shaking, barking and whining — which could all be signs that your pet is too cold. Rabbits and Guinea pigs living in animal hutches should be brought indoors or to a dry and secure location, such as the garage or laundry.”

You can also educate your clients on the common signs of hypothermia. Symptoms include:

  • Whining
  • Shivering
  • Anxiousness
  • Shallow or slow breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Weakness/unresponsiveness

Winter pet care: preventing hypothermia

Of course, it’s all well and good ensuring pet owners are aware of the risk of hypothermia, but it’s also important to advise on how to prevent it. Here are a few advice points.

If we humans feel it’s pretty cold, then it’s likely our four-legged friends will feel the same. Sure, they might not show it in an obvious way, such as by shivering, but perhaps there are subtle indicators. For example, pets may seek warmth near a heater or under a car that’s recently been used, so it’s still warm.

Pets that are cold will often curl up in a tight ball to help keep their body heat in. Furthermore, if you’re out walking, your dog may suddenly stop and show a reluctance to continue.

Advise pet owners to practice common sense when it comes to winter pet care and warding off hypothermia. If their pet lives outside, they might consider bringing it indoors during the cooler months.

If a pet is showing clear signs of coldness, such as shivering, you can suggest a doggy jacket or pet jumper. Additionally, remind owners to assess the location of their pet’s bed or favourite sleeping spot. Pet beds can be moved to a warmer part of the home or perhaps it’s time to swap to a warmer, cosier bed for winter.

What if hypothermia is suspected?

In cases where hypothermia is suspected, owners can be advised of the following actions.

  • If the pet is wet, dry the animal thoroughly with warm towels.
  • If the pet is outdoors, bring them inside into a warm room.
  • Swaddle the pet with warm blankets or slip a hot water bottle under their bedding.
  • Invite the animal to drink warm fluids.
  • Contact a local vet immediately.


What winter pet care tips will you offer this chilly season?

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Image source: Dogtime.com

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Liz has a passion for all things cat and dog, and was one of the first in Australia to bring Pet Insurance to the market. She has headed up Petsecure for the past 12 years, and is committed to promoting and supporting the amazing work done by rescue groups around Australia, and those who work to promote a better life for all animals.

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