We are already in the thick of Winter, and along with the arrival of cooler weather and darker nights, the festive season also brings a range of different challenges when it comes to caring for your pet. Many people who are new to pet parenting don’t realize quite how much the needs of their animal can change during the most extreme of our seasons. However, it is important to make adaptations to the care that we provide so that our pet remains warm, happy and comfortable throughout the year.
How to help your pet stay warm
If you live in an area where the temperatures plummet during the winter, ensuring that your pet stays warm should be a priority, and is something that you can help plan for in advance.
If you have a cat or dog that usually spends most of her time outside, you will want to prepare for being indoors a lot more during the winter. Even the animals with the thickest, fluffiest coats should not spend prolonged periods outdoors when the temperatures are decreasing, as they could quickly develop hypothermia. If and when you do go outside, keep your trips short and active. Physical exertion will help keep both of you warmer while you brave the elements.
If your dog or cat is long-haired, you may want to consider trimming the fur hanging from her belly and legs, as well as the hair between the pads on her paws. These hairs are prone to attracting snow and ice crystals, which will make her more likely to develop frostbite and/or hypothermia. When ice becomes stuck to the hair on her paws, it can also be extremely painful. You could also consider buying waterproof boots – now available for dogs - which can help keep their paws warm when they go out during the winter. They also have the added benefit of protecting your pet’s paws from being covered with salt, antifreeze and other solutions that are used by us when the snow hits, but are toxic to our pets.
Pet jumpers and coats are more than just a cute fashion accessory. Even just one extra layer can help keep a short-haired animal warmer during the winter, and a waterproof coat can ensure your pet stays dry and comfortable.
Common winter pet hazards
The changing season also presents a range of new challenges when it comes to keeping your pet safe. Here are some of the most common winter pet hazards and how to avoid them.
Antifreeze, De-Icer and similar products. Products such as anti-freeze, de-icer and ground salt are common place during the winter months. However, these are extremely toxic to our pets. Keep a very close eye on your animal when she is outdoors. Try and minimize the use of salt around your property, and ensure any spills of antifreeze or de-icer are cleaned up right away so that your pet isn’t tempted to go over for a sniff or a taste. If your pet goes outside without booties on, wash his or her legs and paws thoroughly when he or she returns inside, so that she isn’t tempted to lick them clean herself, which could put her at risk of ingesting any toxins she may have come into contact with.
Frozen water. Frozen water is a huge hazard, particularly for pets who have not come across it before. Most animals don’t realize the fragility of ice and may let their curiosity get the better of them. Never, ever follow your pet out on to the ice. Dogs are naturally more buoyant than we are, so if your pet does fall in, he or she probably has a better chance of getting out than you do! Keep your pet safe by ensuring you keep her on a leash near open water. Cats are naturally more fearful of water, but if you live very close to a lake or stream, you may want to consider keeping her inside while it is iced over.
Getting lost. Snow is extremely fun to play in, but it also presents a landscape much different to what your pet is used to. Normal hazards such as steps and curbs can be much harder to spot, potentially tripping up your pet, and deep drifts can cover much larger drops. The layout of somewhere that your pet knows well can be confusing, and it easy for your pet to become lost.
Snow also makes the perfect camouflage for lighter-colored or white pets, so it is essential that you keep a close eye on where your animal it. Consider investing in some highly visible or brightly-colored accessories such as a collar or jacket, which will make it much easier to spot your furry friend in snow, mist or other inclement weather.
With a little preparation and awareness, you can help your pet to stay safe, healthy and happy this winter. If you have any questions, please call Hoegemeyer Animal Clinic, your Kerrville Veterinarian at 830-896-6507.