After the temperatures dropped in the UK, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) issued a warning to pet owners to take measures to protect their pets from a series of winter risks that could cause serious illness.
For British vets, prolonged exposure to extreme cold and accidental ingestion of antifreeze and chemicals are among the most concerning.
For this reason, the BVA published a series of tips, which can be useful this winter for all owners, to help keep dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and other pets “warm and safe during the winter months.”
“When it’s cold for us, it’s cold for our pets, so it’s important to take extra precautions to keep them safe and warm,” explained BVA Senior Vice President Justine Shotton.
The vet has pointed out that during the colder months, dogs and cats need easy shelter and a cosy den, and while dogs will still need exercise, owners should take precautions to protect them from the cold.
“Antifreeze is a huge danger to cats, so contact your vet immediately if you notice signs of poisoning such as vomiting, depression, incoordination, seizures, and difficulty breathing,” Shotton warns.
He has also stressed that rabbits and guinea pigs are also vulnerable to hypothermia despite their fur, so owners must take steps to ensure that outdoor rabbit hutches are well protected from snow, cold drafts and the winter rain.
“If you have any concerns about your pet in this cold season, please consult your local vet for advice,” recommends the BVA’s senior vice president.
TIPS TO PROTECT PETS FROM THE COLD
Take precautions during and after walks, is the first piece of advice from British veterinarians. Dogs still need exercise in the cold months, but older dogs or those with fine hair should be considered in a coat to keep them warm during walks.
“Wipe your dog’s paws and belly when you come home from a snowy walk to remove any ice or salt and check regularly for cracks in the paw pads or redness between the toes. Grit or rock salt can be extremely toxic to dogs and cats if ingested,” veterinarians warn.
They then point out that antifreeze poisoning must be avoided. Cleaning your pet’s paws can prevent it from ingesting toxins it may have stepped on while outside.
“Antifreeze, in particular, is very toxic to cats, even in small amounts. Aside from its use in automobile radiators and de-icing products, some cases are believed to be related to ingestion of diluted anti-freeze used in ornamental fountains to protect pumps. Store and use antifreeze products carefully and thoroughly clean up any spills.
Likewise, they consider that it is necessary to provide a warm shelter without drafts. In this way, the owner should ensure that the dog’s bed is in a warm place, free of drafts and isolated from the floor of the house and cover it with one or two more blankets.
“Consider keeping older cats indoors during snaps of extreme cold and providing young, healthy cats with easy access to shelter and warmth,” they stress.
HOW TO PROTECT RABBITS, REPTILES AND HORSES FROM THE COLD
Rabbits and guinea pigs should be in a place protected from wind, rain and snow, and at least 10 cm from the ground, is the following recommendation from veterinarians. “Line the hutch with newspaper, put a lot of hay in it and cover it with an old quilt, blanket or tarp,” they point out.
Rabbits need a temperature between 10ºC and 20ºC (the lower temperature assumes rabbits are healthy and living with other rabbits, with plenty of bedding for warmth) and guinea pigs need between 5ºC and 20ºC, avoiding significant temperature fluctuations.
“If the weather becomes very harsh, consider moving outdoor pets indoors, to a well-ventilated space with light and space to exercise,” British vets say.
On the other hand, reptiles and amphibians should be kept in temperature controlled indoor environments.
They also stress that you have to take care of the horses. “Avoid sudden changes in your horse’s management and diet in winter. The use of blankets will depend on the breed of the horse and whether or not they are clipped; the owners must be vigilant to prevent them from shrinking excessively”, they recall.
Finally, you have to check the water sources. “Regularly check water bottles, bowls or outdoor drinkers, as they can freeze when temperatures drop,” they conclude.
Oceanogràfic veterinary staff and UCV clinicians diagnose a respiratory problem in a sea lion
The veterinary team from the Oceanogràfic de la Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències and specialist clinical staff from the Veterinary Hospital of the Catholic University of Valencia (UCV) have collaborated in the diagnosis and treatment of a female sea lion that suffered from respiratory problems due to advanced age. An intervention that has concluded successfully despite the complexity of handling and anaesthetic maintenance of these animals.
The procedure took place on March 30 at the facilities of the marine centre and took place for about two hours, in which they worked together to carry out the treatment in complete safety for both the team and the animal.
Domingo Casamián, graduate-specialist in veterinary cardiology and cardiology of small animals, and professor and head of the Cardiology service at the Veterinary Hospital of the UCV, has reported that the Oceanogràfic veterinary team contacted “on suspicion that Selkie, one of your sea lions, could have a heart or respiratory problem. So, we worked as a team bringing together our expertise as veterinary cardiologists and yours as a marine mammal veterinarian to diagnose and treat Selkie.”
To determine the animal’s problem, the teams carried out an echocardiography of its heart and a chest ultrasound, with which they were able to detect that the problem was located in the lungs, which had a large amount of fluid around them and made it difficult to breathe.
In order to drain the accumulation of fluid, special catheters were used and it was necessary to anesthetize Selkie. “These procedures are routine in dogs and cats -patients that we regularly treat in our hospital- but are very high risk in marine mammals”, stated the head of the Cardiology Service of the UCV Veterinary Hospital.
“We had to adapt – Casamián continued – the procedures that we normally use in dogs because the thickness of the chest wall and the large amount of fat make it impossible to use the same techniques and catheters that we use routinely, but the intervention was successful and we managed to drain all the chest fluid, which allowed Selkie to feel better and breathe more easily.
Lastly, the cardiologist highlighted the Oceanogràfic’s anaesthesia services, which “had a very complex and successful task, since the anaesthetic management and maintenance of these patients is a great challenge and is essential for us to be able to do our job correctly and the animal can survive these interventions”, he concluded.
For her part, Mónica Valls, a veterinarian at the Oceanogràfic, emphasised the “complications when it comes to anesthetising marine mammals due to their adaptation to diving, which is a very important factor to take into account”.
After the operation, Valls explained that “the recovery is being slow, but the whole team, both caregivers and veterinarians, is very dedicated to Selkie and is being monitored to verify that the situation is not getting worse.” Although it is true, it should be remembered that Selkie is an elderly female sea lion and her situation is geriatric.
“Toy” dog social media warning
Phenomena such as social networks are an inseparable part of today, and with the arrival of Christmas and the increase in consumption linked to these festivities, the tastes of users may be conditioned by the messages of influencers. Something that falls within the logic of society but, as the Royal Canine Society of Spain (RSCE) has analysed, can have negative consequences in the case of companion dogs.
“Neither purebred dogs nor mixed breeds are a gift or a toy: they are one more member of the family and, in the case of their owners, it is essential that they pay attention to them and invest in guaranteeing their well-being and health,” they point out. But, with the rise of social networks, the RSCE has verified that, in canine matters, a series of fashions are making their way “with obvious risks for animals”.
In this sense, they recall that there are almost 400 internationally recognised canine breeds, which make up a diverse mosaic of sizes, colours, hair types or functions. And some of them become a trend due to the spread of youtubers, instagramers and influencers. This is the case of the ‘Toy’ or ‘Tea Cup’ dogs, very small specimens that may correspond to breeds such as Maltese, Pekingese, Pomeranian spitz, pinscher…
However, for the RSCE, the proliferation of so-called ‘Tea Cup’ dog breeders in search of “simple financial gain” has led these false professionals to offer puppies that deviate from the breed standard. “This leads them to force the miniaturisation of any canine breed, a practice that can lead to a whole series of problems: dwarfism, joint weakness, heart problems, neural problems, metabolic imbalances…”, they warn.
“These are practices that degrade the good work of responsible breeders in Spain. Professionals who seek the conservation and improvement of pure canine breeds through proper breeding, providing the essentials for each specimen and selecting the best specimens of each breed for their future well-being. We must flee from those who seek economic returns at the expense of the health of the animal”, they affirm.
Another “risky fashion” that society points out is the search for colours in dogs, “many times with the intention of posing for a photo and without paying the least attention to the affected animal.” “A trend that, as occurs with ‘Toy’ dogs, moves between exorbitant prices and entails a series of risks,” they say.
First, they explain that the sought-after combination of recessive characteristics can lead to problems such as skin diseases, blindness, deafness, or photosensitivity. Second, they stress that “colourful” dogs that are in vogue, such as the silver Labrador, blue French bulldog, brindle pug, merle bulldog, or double merle dachshund, are not recognised by breed standards. “It would be crosses marketed in many cases at higher prices than purebreds,” they warn.