How to Care for Pets in Winter
As animal lovers, keeping our pets safe and warm during the colder period of winter is so important and will often require different strategies depending on the weather forecast.
Animals also have different needs in cold weather. Outdoor pets like rabbits or guinea pigs will benefit from additional bedding and water in winter months, while dogs and cats may need to be kept indoors more when the temperature dips.
Although we’re sure your animals have a cosy bed, stable, coop or hutch to keep them snug as a bug, here are some tips to keep them warm during the coming winter.
How to keep pets warm in cold weather
Cold weather tips for dog owners
Keeping your pet snug in cold weather is important, especially if you live in an area with harsher winter conditions.
Dogs, like humans, are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia, so minimise the time your dog spends outdoors during especially cold weather. Shorten walks and playtime, and avoid prolonged exposure to the cold.
Winter weather can be tough on your pet's paws, too. Snow, ice and salt on pavements can be extremely harmful to their pads, so wipe their feet and tummy when coming inside.
Make sure to provide them with plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy and healthy. Consider indoor activities such as puzzle toys or interactive games to keep them entertained.
How cold is too cold for a dog?
If it's too cold for you, it's probably too cold for your dog, but most experts agree that anything below 4° celsius is potentially dangerous.
While some dogs may enjoy playing in the snow, it's important to limit their time outdoors during extreme weather conditions.
Some dogs, especially lean breeds like whippets or greyhounds, may feel the cold more and will appreciate a cosy coat when venturing outdoors or a properly fitted doggy jumper to wear indoors.
Do dogs get cold at night in the house?
Dogs have a higher natural body temperature than we do - usually between 38 to 39.2° celsius - because their fur gives them an extra layer of protection.
While this can help keep them more toasty, you should ensure that their spaces are warm enough and that they have a place to lay down that's protected from or elevated off the cold floor.
A clean and well-brushed coat also provides the best insulation, so make sure you are keeping up with regular grooming.
How to protect cats from cold weather
Most species of cats have thrived in all varieties of locations, weather conditions, and climates, including extremely cold ones.
Cats can adapt well to their environment; the Pallas cat, for example, which lives in cold, mountain terrain has the longest and most dense fur of any cat specie. However, there are steps that you can take to ensure your feline friends stay safe in winter.
Are outdoor cats okay in the winter?
While some cats are well-equipped to handle colder temperatures - breeds like Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats have thick fur that provides insulation - some cats are just not as well-built for the cold.
If your cat spends a lot of time outdoors, make sure they also have a warm and dry shelter with a cozy bed or blankets inside to retreat to and access to the indoors in inclement weather.
Supplements for animals in winter
Just like humans, animals can also experience certain health issues during the colder months. The reduced sunlight and changes in their routine can have a significant impact on their overall health and supplements can play a crucial role in supporting their immune system, joint health and general well-being during this time.
How to keep cats warm inside in winter
Keeping your cat entertained indoors may help keep them from wandering, so provide indoor activities and toys to prevent boredom.
Kittens, elderly cats and those with pre-existing health conditions may also have a harder time regulating their body temperature in the cold, so you should be kept indoors.
Caring for outdoor pets in winter
There are many measures you can take to keep your outdoor pets healthy and happy in cold winter weather.
While some owners choose to bring their pets indoors for the winter, there are a few things you’ll need to consider if that isn’t a suitable option.
Make sure that your pet is well-protected from both the elements and predators in a warm and safe environment.
If you haven't already, consider installing an outdoor thermometer to an internal wall of their hutch or coop. Check the temperature of their shelter regularly and look for any signs of discomfort.
Food and water
Make sure they have access to fresh water and are provided extra food during chilly months, as animals require additional calories to maintain body heat. Providing lukewarm water instead of cold water to drink is a good way to boost their body temperature.
Insulation like straw, hay or even blankets is also important and will help protect animals from the cold ground. You could even consider lining the walls of the hutch or coop with aluminium foil for extra protection.
Most pets still need sunlight and exercise, so make sure they have access to an outdoor space to run and play.
How can I keep my outside animals warm?
Many of us bundle up indoors, even in milder conditions, but it’s not that simple for outdoor pets. If you don’t want to keep them in all winter, it is best to leave them outside and take measures to ensure the pet doesn’t get too cold.
Some animals build up a winter coat, so if they are brought inside for the night and put out again during the day, their body could become a little confused and they may start to moult their thick coat.
Caring for your chickens in winter
Keeping backyard poultry (chickens, ducks, geese, guinea fowl and turkeys) is becoming more popular than ever in the UK, where winters are usually relatively mild.
Chickens are hardy birds and with a little extra care in the winter months, they do very well outdoors.
Hens will increase their feed intake in the cold, as they require additional energy to maintain body heat. We’ve got a collection of all-natural products to keep them healthy, plus a recipe for our hearty poultry porridge as an additional pick-me-up on a chilly morning.
Providing them with supplementary mixed corn in the afternoons during winter months will give them a boost of heat producing energy as they digest it overnight.
How to keep chicken warm in winter
In winter, it’s also important to make sure your chickens have room to roost comfortably. Check on them after dark to make sure they're all sleeping together but aren’t overcrowded.
You can also apply coconut oil or petroleum jelly to their combs and wattles prior to roosting each evening to prevent frostbite.
What temperature is too cold for chickens?
Chickens are kept outdoors in places like Canada where temperatures drop as low as -20°C, so there’s no need to be overly concerned about your flock.
Wind chill can raise the rate of heat loss from your coop. To provide a bit of extra comfort, you can cover their coop with old carpet, blankets or cardboard. Unless the temperature where you live regularly drops to below -10°C, there is no need to get your chicken coop insulated.
A thicker layer of straw or wood shavings on the floor of their coop will help keep them cosy and warm in cold temperatures.
Keeping outdoor rabbits warm in winter
So long as your pet rabbits are healthy and have a warm hutch, keeping your bunnies outdoors for the winter months shouldn't be an issue.
Domestic rabbits cope very well in colder temperatures – they actually prefer it - as long as they have adequate care and shelter.
Your rabbits’ home should be checked regularly in winter to make sure it’s waterproof, draught-proof, dry and well-ventilated.
Rabbits will usually need more water, as they won’t have access to moisture from grass or leafy greens. Giving them extra food will also ensure that you’re providing them with enough calories to endure the winter temperatures.
How much cold can rabbits tolerate?
With a well-insulated hutch, rabbits should be fine outdoors, even in near-freezing conditions. You don’t need to bring them inside unless it’s especially chilly, but placing their hutch against the side of a building can help reduce draughts and keep the hutch dry.
The hutch should also be near enough to the house so that you can keep an eye on them through a window.
Keeping guinea pigs outside in winter
For guinea pigs, it's better to keep them inside in winter, either in a conservatory or an unused garage.
If your guinea pig must stay outside, make them happy in their hutch by covering the front with an old blanket and adding plenty of extra bedding.
If you can, bring your small pets inside in really bad weather or if the temperature suddenly drops. If there are any signs of illness or sudden lethargy, contact your vet immediately.
How cold is too cold for pets outside?
Finally, although it varies, when temperatures start to fall below 2°C, some cold-averse animals will get uncomfortable and will need protection.
Winter can be a challenging time for pets, so make sure to schedule regular check-ups with your vet to ensure they are kept in good health and to address any concerns that may arise.