Many of us enjoy owning small outdoor pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs but do we really know how best to look after them during the winter months? With the recent severe cold snap and sustained freezing temperatures, our furry friends need some extra special care and attention from us to ensure that they stay happy and healthy throughout winter.
Rabbits, guinea pigs and other small pets are prone to temperature change because of their size and hypothermia can be a problem in freezing conditions.
Here are six tips to help keep your furry friends warm and safe this winter.
Place extra amounts of straw in the bedding area in their hutch or cage to keep them warm. Straw bedding is preferable as they dont tend to eat it as much as hay bedding!
Place an old blanket or piece of carpet over the hutch as this helps to keep the hutch warm but make sure that it doesnt stop the air getting in.
Check water bottles daily as they will freeze if the temperature is low enough. Consider getting a thermal cover for the water bottle which will help to prevent water icing up.
When the weather turns icy cold, take your furry friend indoors or move their hutch or cage into a shed or car free garage where it will be warmer than the outdoors. Alternatively, you can use a snuggle safe bed warmer in the bedding area to raise the temperature for your pet.
If you choose to bring your small pet indoors, keep hutches away from radiators, loud noise and smoky atmospheres.
Keep your small animals well fed but remember never to give rabbits lettuce as this upsets their digestive system. A well balanced, quality dry food is ideal and will provide all the dietary nutrients that your pet needs.
When Hypothermia Sets In! Check your small animals regularly for any signs of hypothermia. If you believe that your rabbit or guinea pig is hypothermic, you need to raise the temperature of the hutch by placing a snuggle safe bed warmer close to the animal. The warmer should be wrapped in a towel to avoid getting the animal getting too warm, too quickly. Alternative, you can use a hair dryer on low heat to raise the animals temperature gradually.
If the animal fails to respond you should immediately call your vet for advice and further treatment.
What about Pond Fish? Always check on your pond fish in the bad weather. Place a ball in the pond to help prevent it from freezing as this will limit the amount of oxygen in the water. Remove any dead leaves and debris from the pond and keep the filter on.