Depending on where you live, winter months can be a major adjustment in living (compared to spring, summer, and even fall). Think of all the ways that we, as people, prepare: snow tires for our vehicles, winter apparel comes out of storage, firewood is collected, and many other considerations are made. This adjustment is also present for our animals, which is why I’ve put together a blog, discussing 4 ways to prepare your pet for the winter season.
1) Keep Them Warm:
This means coats for our smaller dogs and cats, as well as thin coated dogs (like our beloved greyhounds). We even have a labrador in the practice who also requires a coat, because she’s just a little sensitive to colder temperatures (I can’t blame her – so am I!).
Another way to keep our pets cozy is through heated beds. These beds come in all sizes, custom for the tiniest of cats, to large dogs. Senior animals with arthritis, sore muscles, and stiff joints will really appreciate this consideration. The colder temps are often really hard on our senior animals, and so special considerations should be made for them. A heated bed is a great way to keep them warm, and their muscles a little more comfortable. Here is a good example of a cat bed with an integrated 4-watt heater.
2) Keep Them Inside:
By and large, our canine friends are not equipt to be living these colder months outdoors. It’s not comfortable, and depending on the temperatures, it can actually be dangerous to their health. Sure, they love to romp and roll around in the snow. But as a general rule, they shouldn’t be spending extended hours in freezing temperatures. They can suffer from similar illnesses that we do in these frigid conditions. If you are going to leave your dog outside for long periods of time, please consider providing them with some kind of warm shelter. If you have feral cat colonies in your area, consider building them a safe and warm spot to stay for the season, like these inexpensive and easy-to-make cat shelters. Try to get in the habit of tapping on the hood of your car before starting it, as this is sometimes a spot that a cold cats take refuge.
3) Avoid Toxic Chemicals Used in Winter Months:
The main toxic chemical that comes to mind is antifreeze. Antifreeze is a common chemical used for automobiles (to prevent freezing) during winter months. Ethylene glycol is the ingredient found in most antifreeze; this is extremely toxic to dogs and cats, affecting the brain, liver, and kidneys. The initially sweet taste is attractive to our pets, and even a small amount can be fatal. Signs of ethylene glycol toxicity include: vomiting, wobbly appearance, depression, lack of appetite, twitching muscles, and increased thirst and urination. Pets should be taken to their veterinary emergency clinic immediately if they are showing symptoms, or it is known that consumption as occurred. The easiest ways to avoid toxicity is to ensure your car isn’t leaking the fluid, avoid keeping the bottle of antifreeze uncapped, and avoid leaving the chemical in your car when your pets are traveling with you.
Other toxic chemicals to avoid are ice melts (salt), used to melt ice on slippery sidewalks and roads. When our pets walk on these salted roads and pathways, then lick the substance off their paws, they are ingesting toxic chemicals (such potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium carbonate, and calcium magnesium acetate). In large quantities, these can cause issues with our pets, and even the “safe” ice melt products should be used with caution. My recommendation is to wipe your pet’s paws when coming in from walks, to avoid their licking the substance.
4) Keep Them Stimulated:
This is likely the most overlooked area during winter months. Being cooped up for weeks feels bad, and our pets think so too. Consider food puzzles (for cats too!) for mental stimulation. Click here to see a great collection of puzzles for both dogs and cats. Contact your local trainer and see if they have fun classes available, like FitPaws or a basic tricks and training class. Play scavenging games with both your dog and cat, and provide your pup’s dinner in frozen kongs. Laser pens are great fun for cats too! This will help keep their mind and body stimulated, and hopefully reduce the extra calories we all experience during these hibernating months.
What tips and tricks do you have when preparing your pet for winter months? Let us know know in the comments below!