At the surgery, we are currently seeing many dogs with painful and irritated feet caused by the icy conditions underfoot. Contact with the cold and wet irritates the skin and salt and grit cause a stinging sensation in the skin between the pads leading to excessive licking which exacerbates the problem.

The best way to avoid these problems is to limit the time your dog spends outside and to bathe his feet in warm water when he comes in to rinse the salt away. Afterwards, dab the feet dry with a soft towel.

Just like ourselves, all mammals use more energy to keep warm in the cold weather. Animals spending a lot of time outside will need to have their feeding quantities adjusted accordingly so that they can regulate their temperature.

Animals that usually drink whilst they are outside, such as cats who drink from fishponds, will need to have an alternative source of water until the ice melts.

Speaking of fishponds, don’t forget your outdoor fish. They will cope with very cold water but when the ice forms over the surface of a pond, it prevents oxygen being absorbed into the water which can cause the fish problems. Break the ice on the surface of the pond to allow oxygen to be absorbed into the water.

Rabbits and Guinea Pigs who live in hutches cope amazingly well with the cold weather but need to be kept out of a draught and have lots of clean, dry bedding. They also need plenty of food and access to unfrozen water. Temperatures have been so extreme lately that the hutch should be moved into a garage or shed.

Best wishes for a happy white Christmas