While pets need responsible care throughout the year, when the chilly days of winter approach it is time to make sure that the effects of cold and damp are minimised. Long dark days can mean changes to exercise routines and cold weather can aggravate arthritis.

TV vet Katrina Warren says that with a little commonsense, animals will be happy and healthy throughout the winter months.

By following a few simple steps, your pet can enjoy the brisk winter weather and you will have the satisfaction of knowing you are providing the best possible care for your four-legged friend, Dr Warren says.

Provide fresh water at all times. It can be easy during winter to make the mistake of thinking that pets need less to drink. Clean fresh water should be available at all times.

Provide shelter from rain and wind. All pets, no matter the length and thickness of their coats, need protection from winter damp and wind.

If your dog sleeps outside, or is outside for long stretches during the day, then an insulated doghouse should be provided.

Make sure it faces away from any prevailing wind and keeps the pet warm, dry, out of drafts and up off the damp ground. Older cats should ideally be kept indoors and young cats also need shelter.

Keep up the exercise. It can be too tempting to stay by the fire on winter days, or avoid a walk around the block after a long day in the office.

But it is important for you and your pet to maintain a regular exercise routine throughout winter. Remember to dry the dog if it becomes wet from walking in the rain.

Watch the diet. Like people, pets don’t require more food just because it is cold outside. However, pets that spend a great deal of time outside or dogs that work and run during the winter may need additional calories to meet their bodies’ demands.

On the other hand, if pets are kept indoors all winter, make sure they don’t gain weight as they await springtime.

Dogs and cats are generally well equipped to face winter weather so long as they have warm, dry shelter, although this is not true for breeds like greyhounds and whippets, or arthritic dogs. You could consider purchasing a specially made raincoat for your dog.

The most important tip for keeping pets happy during the winter months is to make sure you pay attention to their needs.

An extra thick mat or blanket on a chilly floor is a small act of kindness that will help keep your pet happy during winter.

The best thing of all is that your dog or cat is the ideal companion for those cold winter’s nights, Dr Warren says.

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