A cold snap can be fun but care and help are needed when it comes to animals.

Up until the last couple of weeks, we haven’t really had cold weather.  However, every year there are tragic incidents which could be avoided involving animals in particularly around frozen bodies of water.  Just this week we heard of a dog who drowned whilst walking on a iced lake.  It is important to have your dog under control whilst walking when the thermometer  drops.  Recall is vital as recently week in Yorkshire 16 sheep died despite being rescued from falling into a frozen pond they had been chased onto by an out of control dog.  It’s not just the dangers of weak ice and freezing water than can cause problems.  Animals, just like us, can lose their balance when surfaces are slippery.  It’s true, most have a better grip than we do but when a dog is running around excitedly and they slip this can and does lead to breaks and torn soft tissue.  It’s a problem for young animals and ‘leggy’ pooches (eg sight hounds) can be prone to these types of injuries.

Birds and wildlife will appreciate extra food when the ground is rock hard but don’t forget to put out fresh water too as not only do they need to drink but also bathe! Although some native breeds of horses and ponies are hardy enough to withstand cold weather, their coats have evolved to to protect them, some equines will benefit from a rug and all should have some sort of shelter where they can get out of the worst of the weather.

It’s important too not to disturb the habitats on hibernating animals.  That pile of brush and logs could be the ideal sleeping quarters of hedgehogs or frogs, toads and other amphibians.  Some frogs will over winter in the leaves and debris at the bottom of ponds.  It used to be thought that lack of oxygen can be a problem if the water freezes.  However, charity Pond Conservation has shown the opposite is true. Oxygen levels can actually rise in a frozen-over pond, benefiting the animals and plants living beneath. If the pond is covered in snow and not just ice, it is worth gently clearing it away to allow light through and in turn helping the plants photosynthesise.

Other things to be mindful of in snowy weather are:

  • Clearing up spilled anti-freeze which is harmful if digested.
  • Washing off road salt from feet after being out as this too is toxic.
  • Checking paws for impacted snow which can lead to injuries and chilblains.

Of course there’s so much fun with snow too, dogs and horses do like to roll and play and who doesn’t enjoy a snowball fight! There’s more info on the National RSPCA site.

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