Like humans, dogs and cats are vulnerable during the cold weather. While the cold is a lot more comfortable than the heat, extreme weather conditions can be quite detrimental to the health of your pet. Despite the warmness of their coats, it is still crucial to look after your pet when winter arrives to prevent illnesses such as frostbite or hypothermia. Knowing whether your pet is uncomfortable during the cool weather is easy to identify through signs of lethargy or shivering. However, do not let it get to that point for you to act. Here is what you can do to prevent these symptoms and ensure your pet has the most comfortable winter months.
Do not forget those walks
As it gets colder each day, it is easy to neglect your dog’s walks. However, the importance of physical activity in your dog is still just as high even when the days are a lot shorter and the nights are a lot colder. There are several ways in which you can ensure your dog is still having their daily intake of exercise without having to suffer in the cold. Familiarise yourself with the sunset and sunrise times and work your schedule around when you feel is the most appropriate time for you to take your pooch for a walk. If the time of day that suits you best is one when there’s low visibility and high fog, do not be disheartened. Get your dog a winter coat to keep them warm during those cold day walks. There are various ways to work around taking your dog for a walk during dusk and dawn. Consider a couple of different ways to make your early stroll a lot more comfortable and enjoyable.
Staying safe and healthy
The importance of maintaining your dog’s health throughout these cooler months is the same with cats. During the warmer seasons, ensure you are providing your cat with a diet full of essential fatty acids that will cause their coat to grow a bit thicker in preparation of the winter that is to come. Fish oil – a cat’s favorite – butter and canola oil are a few examples of foods with a high amount of fatty acids. Check out other options for Fish oil here. Adding protein to their diet and increasing their amount of food intake will help to keep their fur thick and healthy as it grows in the coming months. If you spot any symptoms of hypothermia in your cat such as blue tinting to the skin or lips, a disinterest in food or lethargy, seek medical advice immediately.
Cold days, colder nights
For both cats and dogs, it is crucial to ensure that they are kept warm during winter nights. Move their bedding into a warm area preferably off the floor. If they normally choose to sleep on the ground, provide them with a warm and comfortable mat or bed. For outdoor animals, leaving them inside during the freezing months can help keep them a lot warmer. If they insist on being outside, make sure there are numerous places of shelter they could seek nearby if needed. For dogs, ensure that their kennels have a flap that can block out the wind from the entrance. Additionally, the kennel should be large enough to keep them comfortable yet small enough to produce enough body heat to keep them warm. Check out some kennel options here.
Winter is a season where a lot of pets go missing as they run away from home to find shelter. That is why it is pivotal that your house is secured, and your pet has access to outdoor shelters. Certain breeds such as Huskies, German Shepherds and Saint Bernard’s can handle the colder temperatures a lot better than breeds like Chihuahuas or Greyhounds who have thinner fur and less body fat. If your dog is one of the breeds whose fur does not suffice during the winter, consider purchasing a dog coat. This alternative can save you the fear that your dog will freeze if they do go outside. Coats are perfect for winter for several reasons. If your senior dog has a weaker immune system or an illness that impacts hair growth, a sweater or dog coat is necessary in providing that extra source of warmth for them. This can also be used for breeds such as Poodles whose fur may be thick but is often trimmed to maintain it.
Keeping active and stimulated
While your dog may be stuck inside during most of the cold day, it is still possible to keep them occupied through various activities. Having spare toys that your dog does not normally play with packed away in storage can be the perfect alternative to their normal toys on days where their boredom gets the better of them. Hide those toys or a few treats around the house to keep their brains alert and stimulated. Dogs love to play hide and seek! Run into another room and call out to them and see if they can find you. Additionally, you could always use this indoor time to train your dog in the comfort of your own home. When you are tired of being at home and decide to head out for a little while, wrap your dog in their coat and head out to your local dog friendly café that has an outdoor heated area with undercover shelter. This will ensure that your dog will still have a decent amount of exercise in them after spending the day indoors.
Winter is a tough period for both humans and animals, but as long as you continue to maintain a comfortable environment for you and your pet, the months will fly by before you know it and summer will be around the corner.
Martin Deeley is founder of the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP). The IACP is founded in 1999 as an international umbrella organisation for dog professionals. The IACP’s objective is to increase the professionalism of the professional groups that work with dogs.