Dark skies and your pet

Hexham and the Tyne Valley boast some of the darkest skies in Europe. Whilst this is a wonderful feat it does pose some dangers for us locals with pets.

As winter quickly approaches and the dark nights draw in, it is important that we make changes to our daily routines to ensure your dog is safe and seen and if your cat is an outdoor cat then we look at things to help make them be seen.

The evenings are becoming darker and with the clocks going back at the end of October, walking your dog whilst it’s dark becomes inevitable. Walking your dog in the dark can be daunting for some owners, here are our top tips for keeping your dogs safe.

Dark skies Hexham

Here in Hexham we are surrounded by Dark sky sites, such as Hadrians Wall, Kielder and the Northumberland National Park. Hexham sits in a prominent position for site seeing, but also has a good local population of pet lovers! From dark country roads to lanes and disused coal roads, we have a very diverse landscape around Hexham. It is important to know the route you are taking, the hidden dangers you could face and to make yourself visible to traffic.

Hexham vets

Dark skies

Picking Your Route

If your regular route is off the beaten track and covered then it might be a good idea to switch your route to somewhere with lighting. Whilst you can purchase reflective gear (and you should if you are walking in unlit areas), some roads / access can be quite dangerous if even for just a short stretch. If you are unable to switch your usual routine it can also be an idea to go to a local park or shorter walks through the working days and then nice long walks on your days off! Hexham has an array of wonderful dog friendly cafes and pubs, so if you do find yourself on a cold and wet day then do be sure to explore the town centre! We have a handy guide here for you. 

Hidden dangers

Potential dangers surround our pets in the cold and dark. Cats have a bad habit of seeking refuge on the underside of cars to gain warmth from car engines. It is always a good idea if you live in an area where you know of outdoor cats to give your bonnet a tap before setting off. You would be surprised how often we receive phone calls advising of a cat inside an engine compartment refusing to move! 

For dog walkers even your usual route can have a new danger if you can’t see. A rabbit hole can hurt your dog, or yourself, for example. A torch helps but our advice is always to stick to lit paths or an area you know well and be well lit.

Be seen!

Reflective collars for outdoor cats is highly advisable. You can get just a reflective collar or even a collar with a flashing light. For dogs, the same! Here are a few suggestions:

  • Reflective Leads
  • Reflective Collars
  • Flashing Collar Clips
  • Hi-Vis Coats

Not all pet’s like wearing coats so collars might be your best option. We stock collar attachments which flash and work great but you will know what will work best for you and your pet.

Light & listen

Carrying a torch whilst it’s dark is a must. Not only does it help you see your surroundings, but it can also make it easier for your dog to find you if they’re off the lead.

It’s important to be aware of your surroundings, we suggest removing headphones, and avoiding answering calls so your full attention can be on your dog. This way if they are off the lead, you can communicate with them regularly. Having a whistle can also be helpful for communication as it will let them know where you are. Most importantly during dark nights is to keep your dog on a lead in an unsecure area. We receive daily phone calls of dogs that have gone from sight and it can lead to a severe situation. 

Lastly, always, ensure your dog is microchipped and your contact details are up to date so if for any reason, your pet goes missing the chances of being reunited are greater. To check your pet’s microchip details are up to date, contact our reception team on 01434 607677.