We humans react to cold weather by wrapping up, heating our homes and places of work, and spending more time indoors. Our pets, with few exceptions, have the same needs as we do when the weather turns chilly. The difference with them is that they depend on us to provide the conditions to keep them warm in winter. Old, young and arthritic animals are particularly at risk at this time of year…
Follow these sensible suggestions to help your pet over the winter and ensure a happy, healthy start well into the New Year:
Keep your pet indoors
In cold weather your dog or cat will be warmer – and safer – inside
Give your car the “once over”
Cats will crawl anywhere for warmth. Before you move your motor make sure your – or a neighbour’s – cat is not underneath, or under the bonnet.
Keep your dog on a leash in winter weather
Lost dog statistics peak in winter. Dogs can quickly become disorientated in severe winter weather. This can cause them to wander, and as they very often lose their scent in snow and icy conditions. It makes sense to keep you dog on a leash.
Don’t leave your pet alone in a car during cold weather
Most vehicles provide little or no shelter for a small animal in cold weather. The internal temperature in a car will plummet after the engine stops running, with serious, or fatal, consequences for any animal abandoned inside.
Keep a dog coat at hand
Some owners may feel a little over-indulgent at the thought of wrapping up their dog before walking in cold weather. However most dogs, especially the shorter haired breeds, will need a dog coat when going outside in cold weather.
Would you wander out in freezing temperatures in a t-shirt and shorts?
Use antifreeze safely
Unfortunately animals love the taste of antifreeze – but antifreeze doesn’t love animals. In fact, a very small dose of common antifreeze can kill your pet. Use antifreeze that contains propylene glycol, clean up any spills during use and always store toxic substances where your pet can’t get at them.
If you suspect that your pet has been poisoned, get it to a vet immediately!
Avoid winter haircuts
It’s generally a bad idea to cut your pet’s hair with the onset of cold weather. More hair – more warmth. Make sure you give your pet a good brushing every week if possible, and make sure your dog’s coat is dry before walking in cold weather.
If your pet has been exposed to the winter elements, watch out for signs of hypothermia. Stiffness, poor coordination, shivering, shallow breathing, weak pulse and unusually pale gums are among the more obvious symptoms of hypothermia.
If you suspect hypothermia, contact your vet immediately!
Food and water
Your pet will burn more calories in cold weather, so you may need to top up the bowl a little more than in warmer weather. At this time of year a mineral and vitamin supplement can help to boost your pet’s general health. And make sure there’s plenty of fresh water available – your pet can’t drink from a frozen bowl.
Provide your pet with shelter, warmth, nutrition and company over the Winter, and you’ll reap the rewards over the year.