Hospital for Small Animals

Advice on caring for pets this winter

With winter upon us, our veterinary experts have put together some tips to keep your pets happy and healthy over the coming months.

If you have any concerns about the health or welfare of your pets , please contact your vet.

Winter walks

Older dogs and some breeds with thinner fur feel the cold more. Consider buying them a coat to wear on chillier days and keep walks short. If you can, walk your dog while it’s daylight. If this isn’t an option, then think about getting your pet an LED collar and reflective lead to help them be seen. Keep your dog away from ponds, lakes or rivers that have frozen over. Thin ice may break under their weight.

dog in snow

After-walk care

When returning from a walk, make sure your dog is warmed and dried. The rock salt used to treat roads and pavements can irritate pets’ paws, as can impacted snow that builds up between their toes. If your pet will tolerate it, rinse their paws in warm water after a snowy walk.

The dangers of antifreeze

Dogs and cats are attracted to the smell and taste of antifreeze, but it is highly toxic. Keep all antifreeze safely locked away from your pets. If you think your pet has swallowed antifreeze, contact your vet immediately.

Keeping pets warm

Check that your pet’s bed is kept away from draughts and in a warm area. Provide them with extra blankets, especially at night when temperatures can plummet.

Outdoor pets

Outdoor pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs will need extra bedding during the winter. Insulate hutches with blankets and covers, but remember to retain adequate ventilation. Consider moving hutches to a sheltered position, facing away from wind and rain. If the temperature drops severely, consider moving the hutch into an outhouse or garage.


Christmas hazards

Have a stress free festive season and avoid a trip to an emergency veterinary clinic or hospital by following some of our top tips below.


Seasonal foods

Many homes are full of delicious foods at this time of year. Some of the most festive items such as Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, mince pies and panettone contain raisins, currants and sultanas that are all highly toxic to dogs, as is chocolate.

Avoid leaving presents containing foodstuffs, especially chocolate, blue cheese or alcohol, under the tree or within the reach of pets.

cat with xmas tree

Gifts for pets

We love to indulge our pets at Christmas time, but be aware that some toys and treats can lead to tooth fractures and mouth injuries. You can help reduce the risk by only giving chews and toys that can be flexed by hand or indented with your thumb. Avoid nylon, rawhide and antler chews. Tennis balls can also wear the teeth, due to their abrasive texture.

Festive decorations

Christmas plants such as poinsettias, holly, ivy, mistletoe and lilies can be toxic, so keep them away from your pets. Some animals are fascinated by Christmas trees, but make sure that they do not chew or play with decorations, lights or tinsel, and never leave your pet in a room with a Christmas tree unsupervised.

Seasonal visitors

The festive period is a time when people like to catch up with friends and loved ones, however, welcoming lots of visitors to your home can be unsettling for some pets. Try to keep them calm and stress-free and give them a safe, quiet place to retreat to.

Wishing you, and your pets, a happy and safe Christmas from everyone at the Dick Vet.


About the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies   

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies is a one-of-a-kind centre of excellence in clinical activity, teaching and research. Our purpose-built campus, set against the backdrop of the beautiful Pentland Hills Regional Park, is home to more than eight hundred staff and almost fourteen hundred students, all of whom contribute to our exceptional community ethos.   

The School comprises:   

The Roslin Institute   

The Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems   

The Roslin Innovation Centre   

The Hospital for Small Animals   

Equine Veterinary Services   

Farm Animal Services   

Easter Bush Pathology   

The Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education   

We represent the largest concentration of animal science-related expertise in Europe, impacting local, regional, national and international communities in terms of economic growth, the provision of clinical services and the advancement of scientific knowledge.