Following the coldest night of the year, the BVA is urging vets to ensure their clients are aware of the hazards cold weather can pose to pets living outdoors.
Animals such as guinea pigs and rabbits housed outside can be particularly susceptible to the cold.
BVA president Sean Wensley said: “Not all owners are aware of the hazards cold weather can create for their small pets, so appreciate the seasonal advice which practices and veterinary associations produce to help make sure animals are kept warm enough and safe.
“We all know vets do more than treat ill health and issuing timely preventive tips through channels such as practice newsletters, social media and locally targeted press releases is another way of ensuring the profession remains central to promoting good animal welfare in local communities.”
The BVA and British Veterinary Zoological Society are asking owners with outdoor hutches and runs to be vigilant during the cold snap and make sure any pet living space is well-protected from snow, frost and winter rain.
Mr Wensley added: “Despite their warm furry coats, domestic rabbits and guinea pigs are vulnerable to extremes in weather. That’s why we’re asking owners to make sure that their pets do not suffer in the cold and that their home keeps them protected and comfortable.
“If owners have any concerns about their pet they should consult their local vet for advice.”
To make sure their pets are protected owners should ensure they follow the steps below.
- Ensure pet homes are waterproof, draught-proof, dry and ventilated as well as escape-proof and predator-proof, checking regularly throughout winter for water marks or signs of damage.
- Keep the temperature of their small pet’s home between 0oC to 20oC for rabbits (the lower temperature assumes rabbits are healthy and kept with other rabbits, with lots of bedding for warmth) and 5oC to 20oC for guinea pigs, avoiding fluctuations in temperature change for both rabbits and guinea pigs.
- Check your pet’s water bottle or bowl regularly as they can freeze when the temperature drops.
- Place your pet’s home in a sheltered position, away from wind, rain and snow, at least 10cm off the ground.
- Make sure your rabbits and guinea pigs have extra bedding to keep warm during colder weather. Line hutches with plenty of newspaper, provide lots of hay and cover with an old duvet/blanket/tarpaulin.
- If the weather becomes too severe, consider moving outdoor pets inside to a well-ventilated space with light and room to exercise, but never place them inside an in-use garage as vehicle exhaust fumes are harmful.