Winter is beginning to take hold and as days get colder and longer, it’s important to know how to keep our four-legged friends safe, happy and healthy when temperatures plummet.

PDSA vet, Olivia Anderson-Nathan, says: “Despite their fur coats, our pets can still feel the cold and, unlike humans, animals are unable to tell us how they are feeling. That’s why it’s important to make sure you take steps to keep them warm during winter weather.”

To help owners and pets alike, Olivia offers her top tips for keeping your cats and dogs cosy and content over this winter.

*Make sure your cats and dogs have access to warm sheltered areas inside and outdoors.

*Young, old or sick pets should not be out in very cold weather for long as they can be more vulnerable and lose heat quickly.

*Don’t leave pets in cars, caravans or unheated conservatories as temperatures can quickly plummet, which can cause hypothermia.

*Take your dog on regular short walks, and be sure to towel-dry them if they get wet to prevent them getting a chill.

*If your cat can’t come in and out of the house freely on their own, then try to keep them indoors on snowy, wintery nights. If you have to shut them in overnight, make sure you give them plenty to play with to keep them occupied.

*It’s important to keep your pet’s paws free from road grit and salt rinsing or wiping their paws after walks. Remember to dry them off after rinsing.

*Wear a high-visibility jacket yourself when out on wintery walks to keep both you and your pet safe. High-vis collars or harnesses are recommended to make sure your pooch can be seen on dark nights. This is especially important when walking near roads.

*If you spot your pet shivering, bring them into the warmth straight away and call your vet. Without proper treatment, hypothermia can be fatal.

Small pets:

*Relocate rabbits and guinea pigs’ housing to a warm and sheltered spot such as a shed or car-free garage. They should still have access to sunlight and a run for exercise and stimulation.

*Make sure the bedding inside the hutch is warm, dry and plentiful. While rabbits and guinea pigs should be eating a high quality feeding hay, straw makes a warmer bed so provide both during the winter months – make sure it is piled high!

*Provide your pet with additional layers during cold spells - cover hutches and runs with a duvet or thick blanket to help keep the cold out - but make sure it’s out of reach, can’t be nibbled and that there is still a good air-flow.

*Check at least twice daily that water bottles haven’t frozen in the cold weather.

*Check your rabbit’s bottoms for signs of fly-strike once a day in winter. It is important to stay vigilant, even in the colder months, as flies will often seek a warm hutch to lay their eggs. Remove any damp or soiled bedding from their homes too.