As we head into December, the British weather certainly takes a turn. We are well and truly into the darker days, and we once again have to leave the house 10 minutes early to de-ice the car.

As a nation of pet lovers, we all want to do everything we can to keep our furry friends happy. Pets at Home has put together some winter tips for keeping our animal companions safe and happy this Christmas.

From preparing for long frosty walks to keeping small pets warm, Dr Karen Heskin, Head of Pets at Pets at Home, has shared her guidance on how to look after our pets in the colder weather:

Invest in a winter coat

 Smaller dogs and dogs with shorter hair will, like us, feel the cold as we come into winter. They can benefit from a dog coat to help protect them from the elements, including wind chill and rain.

However, although winter gear may help keep your pet warm, some dogs won’t appreciate a coat even on the coldest of days. Only put them in clothing if they are happy to wear it, and always make sure they are comfortable before you set off.

Take care of their paws 

Our pets’ paws are one of the cutest and most important parts to look after.

Along with the cold weather comes the salt and grit used on pavements. This can irritate your dog's paws. This can also cause health issues if they get home and start licking their paws.

Always check their little feet after being outside, and give them a quick rinse to remove any snow, ice or grit that has accumulated.

It’s also important to keep the hair between their toes trimmed, especially if it’s long, to help avoid any build-up of ice, salt and grit. 

Stimulate your pet indoors

If the cold conditions are particularly bad, you can shorten their walk and replace it with some indoor fun.

There are lots of ways to entertain your pet at home such as interactive games and puzzles that stimulate them physically and mentally.

Keep them warm and cosy indoors

Much like we appreciate getting cosy on the sofa on chilly evenings, your pet values a warm, comfy space to relax, especially when it is a little colder than usual.

Many cats love an igloo or radiator bed, while dogs might enjoy a cosy heated bed or a few extra blankets to snuggle into.

Protect outdoor pets 

Outdoor pets can be vulnerable to the cold and damp, so it’s best to try and bring rabbits, guinea pigs and their homes indoors when the outside temperature begins to drop. 

A well-ventilated shed or a spacious conservatory could be ideal.

If that isn’t possible, raise their home off the ground to reduce damp, position it out of the wind and draughts and make sure it is well insulated.

Winter is a challenging time for birds too, so remember to welcome them with bird feeder and seed.

Watch out for antifreeze 

 Antifreeze is highly toxic to cats, dogs and other pets.  Unfortunately, they love the smell & taste, and just tiny amounts can be fatal, so please make sure you keep it out of reach of all animals and mop up all spills straight away.

Stay visible in the dark

The shorter days winter brings means it’s likely you’ll be walking your dog in the dark – whether that’s in the morning or evening, or both.

It’s important to invest in a reflective lead, collar or harness to make sure both you and your pet are safe and visible to other pedestrians and cars. 

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Cat Igloo Bed (Pets at Home)Cat Igloo Bed (Pets at Home)

Pets at Home recommended products for winter