As we pass into December, temperatures have started to drop this week. Pet owners need to make sure their dogs and cats are kept free from hidden and potentially fatal hazards this winter.

During the winter your pets can be affected by the cold and get ill. To avoid this walk dogs for less time but more often when temperatures drop, and consider putting a dog coat on old dogs or those with thin fur to keep them warm. Keep older cats inside when the weather gets very bad and make sure that even healthy cats are able to access shelter and warmth.

When walking your dog in ice and snowy conditions,avoid walking in areas where ponds or lakes may have frozen over – animals often don’t understand the difference between solid ground and ice and can fall through. In this situation I would urge owners not to go in after their pet as although distressing, it is never worth risking your own life as well as your dog’s.

When it gets cold many of us use de-icer on the car’s windscreen, which often leaks onto the ground. This can prove deadly to pets, so it is worth rinsing and wiping down their legs and paws after being outside. Extreme cold, as well as salt and grit used on the road, can irritate your pet too so when you wipe paws also check for cracks and bleeding. The cold can also worsen some established conditions, such as arthritis. If you’ve not had your annual check-up with your vet, this is a good time of year to schedule a visit.

If it is not possible to walk your dog in daylight hours, make sure you use a reflective lead, collar or dog coat for your dog (and yourself!) and always carry a torch so that other road users can see to avoid you.