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Animals at Risk Due to Cold Snap

A Golden Retriever Enjoying the Snow

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) has called on pet owners to be particularly vigilant of their animals during the current cold snap to avoid cases of unnecessary suffering arising. The ISPCA is offering advice to people to ensure animals are not placed at risk during the adverse weather conditions.

The ISPCA is offering the following advice to people to promote consideration of animals during the cold weather:

Winter Animal Care

While we may be struggling to keep ourselves warm in this severe weather it is very important that we are mindful of the extra needs of our pets and other animals over the winter period.

Horses and Ponies

Horses and ponies require supplementary feeding in the winter months to allow them to maintain condition as there is no fresh grass growth. They need a constant supply of fresh water. Any ice forming on the water supply in cold weather must be broken.

They must also have access to suitable shelter and rugs if necessary. The requirements for farm animals are very much the same.

Cats and Dogs

The ISPCA recommends that pets be brought indoors if possible during extremely cold periods. They must have somewhere dry and draught free to escape from the elements. Plenty of warm dry bedding should also be provided.

It is essential that pets have access to fresh drinking water at all times so owners must make sure that water bowls are not frozen over. Pets also need plenty of food to allow them to keep their temperature up.

Don’t clip your dog’s hair too short in the winter. The heavy winter coat is nature’s way of keeping the animal warm. Short haired or thin skinned dogs would benefit from an artificial coat to help keep them warm.

It is important to still exercise your dog in cold spells but you may consider shorter, more frequent walks to avoid being outside for too long. Always keep your dog on a lead when it is snowing as it affects their sense of smell and can cause them to become lost. Ensure that your dog is microchipped and wearing an ID tag in case it does stray. Be sure to keep your dog away from frozen ponds and lakes as they could fall through thin ice. 

Anti-freeze is a substance which is very tasty for dogs but highly toxic. If you have any in your house or garage make sure that it is stored away safely. It is a good idea to wipe down you dog after a walk in case it has any grit or anti-freeze on its legs which it could later lick off. This also ensures that your dog is dry and doesn’t catch a chill.

Obviously some animals, the young and old, and certain breeds, are more susceptible to the cold than others. It is vital that you, as an owner, pay close attention to the particular requirements of your pet.

Small Pets

Pets such as rabbits and Guinea-Pigs are normally kept out doors in hutches. In extreme weather the ISPCA would advise that hutches be brought into a shed or garage. If this is not possible the whole hutch could be covered with old carpet or an old blanket.

Extra bedding should be provided as should increased amounts of food. Fresh water should always be available so make sure that the water in their water bottle is not frozen.

Wild Birds

Wild birds can find it hard to find their natural food such as insects, worms, seeds and berries in the winter months so why not give our feathered friends a helping hand by setting up a bird table and feeding them regularly?

They can be fed peanuts and wild bird mix but also household leftovers such as stale bread, biscuits or cake, cooked rice, or grated cheese. Fresh water which is not frozen is also invaluable for birds in extreme temperatures.


If you have a pond in your garden check it every day as toxic gases can build up in the water if the top is frozen over. If your pond is frozen over do not break the ice with force or pour boiling water over the ice. These actions could harm or even kill fish. Instead place a pot of hot water on the ice and let it gently melt.

Dog owners should also ensure that their pets cannot wander on to frozen ponds.

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