The Scottish SPCA is urging people to make preparations for their animals as another harsh winter looks set to return.
We have issued advice to pet owners, farmers and wildlife enthusiasts on how to provide the best care to animals during severe weather conditions.
Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said, "Freezing temperatures and deep snow can be very dangerous for animals, including domestic pets, equines, farm animals and wildlife.
"In particular, we strongly advise owners not to walk their dogs near frozen water.
"Last winter there were several instances where dogs fell through ice, which could have had tragic consequences for the dogs and their owners.
"Many cats tend to spend long periods outside. However, with temperatures so low, owners should ensure their cats can either come inside or at least have access to somewhere warm.
"Animals kept outdoors should have adequate shelter, any extra food and bedding they need and access to unfrozen drinking water.
"At this time of year many owners of pets kept in outdoor hutches such as rabbits also move the hutches somewhere safe inside.
"The level of snowfall and treacherous conditions can make it hard for farmers to monitor their animals but, again, it is vital that they have access to unfrozen drinking water and food.
"It is also kind to feed wild birds at this time of year as their natural food sources will be scarce."
Anyone who finds an animal in distress over the winter period is being encouraged to contact us for help and advice.
Chief Supt Flynn added, "Last year we received a high volume of calls relating to animals stranded in deep snow, particularly farm animals and horses.
"We also dealt with a large number of wildlife casualties such as hedgehogs found struggling to survive and orphaned and injured seal pups.
"Anyone who spots a sick, injured or distressed animal can call our Animal Helpline on 03000 999 999."
- Ensure pet food supplies are sufficient to last periods when it is unsafe to drive or walk outdoors to re-stock.
- Pets kept in outdoor hutches or kennels should be provided with extra bedding and food to keep them warm and drinking water must be available.
- In the worst winter weather pets kept in an outdoor hutch or kennel should be moved into a garage, shed or the home.
- Indoor pets such as hamsters and gerbils can also be offered extra bedding and food.
- Dogs should always be kept on the lead when being walked near frozen water to avoid running onto the ice and accidentally falling through.
- Fish kept in outdoor ponds should be checked daily during winter and the surface of the water should not be allowed to freeze over completely. An oxygen supply must be maintained at all times.
- Pond covers can be helpful in preventing the water from freezing over.
- Ensure animals have access to dry standing, shelter from extreme weather conditions, extra food and drinking water.
- Relocate livestock grazing on remote pastures to an area that is accessible in severe weather to avoid animals becoming stranded in deep snow.
- In the very worst conditions livestock should be moved into indoor housing.
- Ensure adequate feed and bedding supplies are stocked sufficiently.
- Store feed and bedding supplies undercover.
- Check drinking troughs and make sure unfrozen water is available
- The Scottish Government has prepared a checklist to help farmers identify potential risks and get ready for winter.
- As above for livestock, plus:
- Hard standing should be provided to prevent mud fever
- Adequate shelter, natural or man-made, should be available for horses living outdoors all year and dry and draught proof shelter for horses that are stabled at night.
- Adequate hay and roughage and fresh water should be supplied daily in rubber buckets (which take longer to freeze).
- Rugging should be providing in extreme weather, depending on breed and coat thickness.
- Putting out bird feed will help wild birds when natural food supplies are scarce.
- Cat food can be left out for any struggling hedgehogs or other wild mammals.
- Bowls of water can be left out for wild animals to drink when natural water supplies are frozen.