‘Don’t forget to feed wildlife struggling to find suitable food’ during cold snap – ISPCA

With frost and snow arriving in many areas across Ireland this week, the Irish Society Preventing Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) has put together some advice to keep animals safe during the cold spell.

There are currently Status Yellow snow, ice and wind warnings in place until tomorrow morning at 8:00am for Munster, Connacht and Leinster; along with a Status Yellow snow and ice warning in place for Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Derry on Saturday.

The ISPCA says that all horses, ponies and donkeys need a purpose-built shelter or cosy stable this time of year.

“For some equines, there won’t be enough shelter in fields to keep them warm, and they will need to wear a rug to protect them from the elements,” a spokesperson said.

“Equines may be susceptible to a number of ailments such as rain scald or mud rash so it is important they have good shelter and hard ground to stand on.”

Small mammals and wildlife

Small mammals such as rabbits and guinea pigs require special attention during cold winter months, especially if they are kept outside.

The spokesperson said: “Outdoor hutches or shelters should be covered to ensure they are waterproof and there are no drafts.

You should add extra bedding and change it more frequently, and also check water routinely to make sure it hasn’t frozen and there is a fresh supply always available.

“It’s always best to move your pet’s shelter indoors into a shed or garage, but not in an area where cars are stored overnight as the fumes can be seriously damaging.”

The ISPCA has said to not forget to feed wildlife, such as garden birds, that are struggling to find suitable food by using handing feeders or bird tables such as seeds and grains like nyjer, millet, oats and sunflower seeds.

Heading out for a walk?

The ISPCA advises that if the temperature outside is too cold for you to stay outdoors, “the same may be true for your pets”.

“Certain dog breeds are well-adapted for cold weather but others such as small dogs, sighthounds, short-haired dogs, older dogs or those with health problems may have less tolerance for freezing temperatures.

“If you are unsure how well your pet will adapt in colder weather, speak to your vet for advice.”

The ISPCA recommends opting for shorter, more frequent walks especially on these cold days, keeping pets on a lead and away from frozen lakes or ponds to prevent them from falling through the ice.

“This type of weather also inhibits a dog’s sense of smell that they use to navigate, and they can get disoriented so it’s also important to ensure your dog is microchipped and also wearing an ID tag so they can be quickly reunited if they get lost.

“When you come in from a walk, check your dog’s paw pads and between the toes for cracked skin, bleeding, or salt. Chloride salts heat up substantially when mixed with water, a chemical reaction that can be extremely painful if the salt is lodged between your pet’s toes.”

The ISPCA also advises to ensure pets have access to unfrozen water, extra food and good shelter.