Winter Warnings

The icy winter months are here, bringing cozy snuggles and couch time with our fur babies. However, winter brings with it a few concerns that certainly need to be acknowledged and addressed by pet parents all over…

Don’t become a couch potato
Cold temperatures are notorious for making us humans lazy and the same goes for our furry counterparts. Winter encourages longer lie-ins, more cuddles as well as the urge to consume more calories, putting regular exercise on the back burner. Slacking on exercising your pet will see your pet packing on the kg’s, often resulting in negative and sometimes even critical outcomes, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiac-related issues. However, being a pack leader doesn’t allow you such luxuries because you are responsible for your pet’s health and well being. This means making a concerted effort to not become a couch potato and to exercise them daily, albeit for shorter periods than in the summertime.

Always ensure that your pet is being fed a nutritious diet and remember to take into consideration their calorie needs during the colder weather. Dogs use more calories to keep themselves warm during winter months and while doggie jerseys may be the answer for some, others don’t like them at all. Adjusting your pets calorie intake according to their size as well as their activity level is also very important. Dogs that are active during the summer months but sedentary during winter may be able to get away with no dietary changes. However dogs that still like to be active during the cold months will definitely need an increase in calorie intake. Chat to your vet about adjusting their food intake and how to cater best for their specific needs.

Animals get cold too!
Don’t assume that just because our fuzzy loved ones are covered in fur that they are exempt from feeling the wrath of winter’s chill. Puppies and kittens as well as senior animals and smaller breeds with finer coats are more sensitive to the cold. Move them indoors for the colder months and provide them with a warm dog bed with thick, inviting blankets to snuggle up in. Should your dog be comfortable wearing a doggie jersey, there is an array of trendy ones out there to choose from. Remember if you’re cold, so are they!

Outside Pets Require Extra Care
It’s highly advised to make room indoors for your larger pets during the winter months, but if for some reason this is an unlikely alternative, keep the following in mind:

  • Your pet’s tail tip, paws and ears are prone to frostbite in winter, so special booties, hats and coats will go a long way in keeping your four-footed friend from frosting up. Indications of frostbite entail blisters along with waxy skin.
  • Ensure your pet’s outdoor kennel is water resistant and elevated from the cold ground to ward off any moisture. Remember to turn the kennel entrance in the opposite direction of the rain or wind.
  • Outdoor pets must be fed an adequate quantity of food in winter to keep them happy and healthy. They typically consume more kilojoules than their indoor equals because staying warm in the freezing outdoors requires a greater expenditure of energy.
  • Check outdoor pet’s water bowl regularly as they tend to freeze up, thereby placing your pet at risk of dehydrating. Replace any metal food or water bowls with plastic ones as chilling temperatures can cause your pet’s tongue to freeze to the metal.
  • Puppies, kittens and other young animals should never be kept outside in winter as they have no resistance to cold temperatures and their immune systems haven’t fully developed yet.

Unrelenting Ticks and Fleas
These pesky creatures are unfortunately quite the survivors, finding themselves warm spaces to live in, as they continue to inflict irritation on your pet. Maintain tick and flea control all year-round, although dipping dogs can wait for the warmer months. Look into using a replacement product to see you through the winter season.

Pet Playdates
As with children, pets require some social time with their fellow furry friends. Organising playdates with other pets they get along with is a sure way to keep them entertained, both mentally and physically.

Indoor Amusements

For the Pooches:

  • Puzzle toys that mentally stimulate your dog by releasing treats as a reward for completing the correct task will keep them occupied for hours on end
  • Consider giving your dog a chew or tug toy as opposed to a ‘throwing’ toy when playing indoors.
  • Use this special indoor time to play hide and seek with their favourite toy or teaching them new tricks.
  • Create an indoor obstacle course by organising various items around your home such as chairs, hula hoops, cushions, broomsticks and the like. Guide your pooch through the course with treats but ensure this is done on a carpeted surface to prevent your dog from slipping on tiles or wood surfaces, subsequently hurting themselves.

For the Kitties:

  • Lasers, hide and seek tools such as make-shift tunnels or kitty mansions made from recycled goods can keep your cat stimulated for extended periods of time.
  • Protect your furniture by providing your kitty with a scratch post or two that they can take their frustrations out on or sharpen their nails on.

Arthritis Aches and Pains
Senior dogs tend to experience more joint pain than usual in the winter months so ensure to make an appointment with your vet ahead of time so that any associated pain can be minimised. It’s vital to maintain their exercise schedule during the chilly season to keep their joints lubricated and mobile.

Safety First
As with everything in life, changing circumstances (in this case, the seasons) call for updated safety checks:

  • Ensure your pets have reflective collars and leashes as it gets darker later in the mornings and earlier at night. They must remain visible to you, other animals and their owners as well as motorists, cyclists and joggers.
  • Although your pet may not seem to drink as much in winter, they still require their fresh daily water to be accessible to them. Ensure it hasn’t frozen over in the chilly weather.
  • Whilst many people know not to leave their pet unattended in a car on a warm day, cold weather can be as detrimental. In colder conditions, the inside of a car can turn into a motor freezer, putting your pet at risk of developing hypothermia and freezing to death.
  • Antifreeze may be your vehicle’s saving grace from winter’s frostiness, but it’s lethal to your pets – even if consumed in minimal quantities. Keep your pets out of the garage or away from where the vehicle is parked and clean up any antifreeze spillage. If you notice that your pet is acting intoxicated or begins convulsing, take them to your vet immediately. 
  • Cats find the wackiest places to seek warmth, especially under car bonnets and on top of warm vehicle tires. Ensure you bang loudly on the bonnet of your car and give your kitty a few minutes to wake up and retreat before starting your engine or you could face a devastating awakening.
  • Heaters and fireplaces are potential hazards for pets. Ensure any electric cabling is safely out of their reach and that they are never left unsupervised in the presence of any winter-warming appliances.
  • If you or a family member have caught an undesirable winter bug, ensure all associated medication is stored safely out of your pets’ reach as consumption of human medication can be extremely harmful to your pet.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson

 

Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.

 

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Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.