Colder days are not too far away, and as a responsible pet owner it’s important to be prepared for the challenges that winter with pets can bring.
Older and smaller pets can especially feel the cold more and joint stiffness can be more prominent. It may seem that pets are protected from the cold due to their fur coats, but this is not true. Pets with thin coats can feel the cold quicker and can become seriously ill if their body temperature drops.
Every animal is different, some are happy to endure cold weather, whereas some will prefer to stay warm and cosy indoors. As their owner you will know when it is too cold for your pet and adjust their activity and lifestyle.
If temperatures drop pets could be at risk from getting too cold and suffering from hypothermia. It’s a really dangerous conditions that can cause your pet’s body to shut down. We share some tips to help pet owners prepare for the winter months…
Keep pets warm
To protect your pet from the cold, keep them indoors as much as possible. Dog jackets and jumpers could be used for walking your dog to help keep them warm. Short haired and senior pets could use them whilst indoors.
Make sure your pet has a nice warm place to sleep. If they are usually kept outdoors, bring them inside for the winter months to prevent health problems caused by the cold. Senior pets can be more sensitive to the low temperatures, raise your dog or cat’s bed from cold surfaces to prevent stiffness in joints. Add more bedding to keep them warm and provide extra padding for joints.
Keep them active
It’s really important for your pet to stay active throughout winter months and not become a couch potato. Less movement and more food during the winter months could lead to unwanted weight gain and stiffness in their joints.
Keeping up with your pet’s exercise routine throughout winter, will also help to keep their mind active as well as maintain their overall health and quality of life. If your dog doesn’t like the cold, take them on shorter walks to help keep their joints mobile.
Your cat might also want to go outside less due to the cold weather, be sure to play with them inside to ensure they get the same amount of exercise to prevent unwanted weight gain in winter.
Safety on dog walks
Keep warm on dog walks by wrapping up in a winter coat. You can also use coats or jumpers for your dog if they get cold. Smaller dogs and senior pets may benefit from a dog coat on winter walks. If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them. As the dark nights draw in remember to stay safe on walks. Only use routes that are well lit and that your dog knows well in case they get spooked and run off.
Bring pets inside
Bring outdoor pets indoors during winter months. If left outside your dog could freeze or become disoriented. Also, don’t leave pets alone in cars during winter, as cars can act as refrigerators that hold the cold in and can cause animals to freeze to death. Think about bringing smaller pets like rabbits and guinea pigs inside also or move them into a more sheltered area, such as a shed or a car-free garage. Give them extra bedding over winter months to keep warm.
Your cat or dog might use up more calories to stay warm, so you could increase their food intake to ensure they are getting the right amount. However, if they don’t get as much exercise from not going outside, be sure not to overfeed them. If you are unsure, consult your vet who will be able to offer advice.
After each winter walk, dry your dog and check their coat and paws for stones or hardened mud. Use warm water and cotton wool to gently clean between their paw pads and toes to prevent salt and ice from causing irritation. If your cat spends time outdoors, be sure to also dry them off and check their paws when they come inside.
Your cat or dog can become dehydrated in winter, just as much as in summer. Make sure that they have constant access to clean, fresh water. If they have a bowl outdoors, be sure to keep checking it so that it does not freeze over.
If they seem uninterested in water, you could try a dog hydration drink such as Furr Boost, which tops up your pet’s hydration levels as well as supporting their overall health.
In cold weather, air in homes can become dry which can have an impact on your cat or dog’s skin. If their skin becomes dry it could irritate them. Prevent this by brushing your cat and dog regularly to increase circulation and improve their skin and coat. Washing your dog too much during colder months can irritate their skin. Try to do it as little as often to prevent the removal of essential oils, which can increase the chance of them developing dry skin.
Chemicals and salts
These are used to melt ice on paths and driveways and could be poisonous to your cat or dog. Your pet can pick them up on their paws when outside, which could irritate them. If they have been outside clean their paws with warm water and cotton wool to prevent them from licking it off.
Antifreeze is used in cars to prevent car radiators from freezing up. Your pet will be attracted to the sweet taste of antifreeze; however, it can be poisonous to both cats and dogs. Be sure to clean up any spills immediately. Consider using one that is ethylene glycol free, which is the ingredient that makes it both sweet and toxic.
If you are worried about your pet during winter months, be sure to speak to your vet who is best placed to offer advice and treatment.