ISPCA offer pet care tips for frost and snow

The ISPCA offers care tips and advice for families with pets in frost and snow

Wed 10.02.2021, 3:15 p.m.

Last update:
Thu 4th Nov 2021, 11:30 a.m.

With frost and snow appearing in many areas of Ireland this week, the ISPCA has put together some tips and advice to avoid danger and protect your pets during the cold spell.

Are you going for a walk?

If the outside temperature is too cold for you to stay outdoors, so can your pets. Certain breeds of dogs are well adapted to cold weather, but others such as small dogs, greyhounds, short-haired dogs, older dogs, or those with health problems can tolerate less freezing temperatures. If you are unsure how well your pet will adapt to colder weather, consult your veterinarian.

The ISPCA recommends taking shorter, more frequent walks, especially on these cold days, and keeping pets on leashes and away from frozen lakes or ponds to prevent them from falling through the ice. These types of weather also inhibit a dog’s sense of smell, which they use to navigate, and they can become disoriented. If your dog is comfortable wearing a jacket or sweater, keep a dry one handy. A wet sweater will make your pet colder, so check it out regularly.

Be careful of the surface your dog is walking on and try to keep him away from salt-covered roads. When your dog walks in, wipe their paws, legs, and stomach completely to remove any salt and de-icing chemicals that may have been on the street. These can cause irritation or upset stomach if licked off your pet’s feet or fur. The same goes for cats if you bring them indoors in the winter.

When walking your pet at night, wear a warning sign or bright colors so both of you can be seen. Bring a flashlight because you will have to tidy up your dog afterwards even in the dark.

After your walk

When returning from a walk, check your dog’s paws and between their toes for cracked skin, bleeding, or salt. Chloride salts become very hot when mixed with water, a chemical reaction that can be extremely painful if the salt gets stuck between your pet’s toes.

Try not to shave your dog’s fur in winter.

If your dog’s coat needs regular grooming, simply cut it down to minimize the amount of snow, ice, or salt crystals that get caught in its fur. Also, be careful not to take too many baths in winter as this can lead to dry, flaky skin.

Many ice-melting products are toxic to pets.

When looking for home deicing products, look for pet-friendly products. Check the ingredients – those with propylene glycol are safer than most.

Antifreeze is extremely toxic to pets when ingested, but they like it. All containers should be secured and kept away from prying paws and noses. Spills should be cleaned up immediately. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, contact your veterinarian right away.

Make sure pets have access to unfrozen water, extra food, and good shelter

Don’t leave them outside for long periods of time on freezing cold or wet days, make sure they have warm shelter from the harsh wind or rain. Give them some extra food and make sure they have clean (unfrozen) drinking water. The ISPCA recommends bringing pets outdoors on cold days, especially overnight, or alternatively having a dry shelter for them. This should be raised from the ground, with the entrance protected from rain, snow or wind. The shelter should be dry, with thick bedding that is changed regularly. Additionally, feral cats or cats living outdoors in need of a warm place to sleep may curl up under the hood of a car. Always hit the hood or honk before driving to give sleeping kittens a chance to run away.

Some dangers are indoors

Indoor heaters and fireplaces can be just as dangerous as the cold. Make sure pets are kept a safe distance from open fires and heaters so they cannot get burned. Provide a warm place to sleep for pets and keep pets such as birds and small mammals away from vents and drafts.

Grooming horses

All horses, ponies and donkeys need a specially built shelter or a cozy stable at this time of the year. For some horses, there isn’t enough shelter in the fields to keep them warm and they have to wear a blanket to protect them from the elements. Make sure the carpet fits properly and is not damaged. Check daily for chafing or injuries that the carpet may be covering.

Horses can be prone to a number of diseases such as scalding rain or mud rash, so it’s important that they have good shelter and hard ground to stand on.

Taking care of other animals

Small mammals like rabbits and guinea pigs need special attention during the cold winter months, especially if they are kept outside. Outdoor huts or shelters should be covered to make sure they are waterproof and there are no drafts. You should add extra bedding and change it more often, and also check the water bottle regularly to make sure it is not frozen and fresh supplies are always available.

It’s always best to move your pet’s shelter indoors to a shed or garage, but not an area where cars are stored overnight, as the fumes can be seriously harmful.


Don’t forget to feed wildlife such as garden birds that are struggling to find suitable food by using feed dispensers or bird tables such as seeds and grains such as nyjer, millet, oats and sunflower seeds.

Wed 10.02.2021, 3:15 p.m.

Last update:
Thu 4th Nov 2021, 11:30 a.m.

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