All around the country, the leaves are falling and people are pulling out their long sleeves and cozy blankets. As you prepare your home for the cooler weather, make sure you spend some time thinking about how your pet will be affected by the changing temperatures. Although animals are generally better equipped to deal with the cold than humans, it is up to their owners to be sure that dogs and cats are safe from the many hazards that come with colder weather.
1. Acclimate Your Pets
Happily, most dogs and cats are prepared to tolerate the colder weather, especially if they have had the chance to get used to the changes. There are some exceptions, however. For example, extremely cold temperatures or very bad weather can present your pets with serious trouble. When this is the case, you should do your best to keep your pets inside where you are keeping temperatures relatively consistent. This gives you the chance to help your cat or dog get used to the cold more slowly. In addition to helping Fido or Mittens get used to the weather, there are several steps you can take to keep them healthy and happy during the chilly days and nights.
2. Monitor Outside Play Times
Supervise your pet’s outside time. Your dog and cat may not recognize when it’s time to head back into the house. It’s your job to recognize when to bring them inside to avoid hypothermia. It’s best to talk with your veterinarian to determine the best time limits for your specific cat or dog. You’ll be able to get important info on the specific care for the breed of your dog and cat.
3. Provide a Warm Shelter
If you’re not home when your pet is outside, provide a warm shelter, such as a pet igloo designed for the cold. These shelters should be dry and draft-free, kept a few inches off the floor, and have a covered doorway. A nice piece of burlap can keep out the moisture while holding some of your pets’ heat inside. The home should be just big enough that your dog or cat can move easily, but just small enough to retain body heat.
4. Protect Sensitive Feet
Pet feet can be affected in multiple ways by cold weather. Autumn and winter walks are often wet with rain or dew. Salt or chemicals used to melt the snow are often present on the sidewalks and roads. Your dog and cat can pick up a lot of moisture and debris during walks or while playing outside. Dogs and cats are likely to lick their paws to clean them, but be especially careful about excessive licking that could cause infections. The best tactic is to always clean and dry those sensitive paws when your pet comes back into the home. It can also be helpful to keep the hair appropriately trimmed on the paws.
5. Keep Ears Clean and Dry
In addition to cleaning and drying those feet, pay some attention to sensitive ears. Make sure they are always dry when your dog or cat comes into the house, so you can avoid the pain of watching your pets suffering from ear infections. The exposed and sensitive areas of noses can also be susceptible to wind chill and frostbite. Keep a close eye on the paws, ears, and nose throughout the winter.
6. Brush Out Fluffy Coats of Fur
If you have a cat or dog with a full coat, be sure to brush it out regularly. Any matted fur won’t provide the same insulation and a clean coat. In addition to keeping things clean, unbrushed hair might trap snow and moisture, leading to discomfort and irritation.
7. Provide Coats and Sweaters As Necessary
Not every animal has a thick, wooly coat to keep warm, so keep an eye on your pet’s behavior when it gets cold outside. Dogs will often allow you to slip them into a coat or cozy sweater when it gets really cold. Just be sure to choose something that fits well and doesn’t restrict movements.
8. Add an Extra Blanket
You may add a few extra blankets to your bed when it gets cold outside. When you’re upgrading your blankets, consider adding some extra padding to your dog’s bed. Even slight drafts could pose a problem for little dogs and those with thin coats.
9. Keep Pets Away From Puddles
Another serious problem during colder weather is due to antifreeze and its toxic ingredient, ethylene glycol. These products present serious risks at any time of year, but are especially dangerous during the colder months. Always keep antifreeze containers out of reach of your dog or cat and clean up any spills right away. Any amount of sitting water may have traces of antifreeze due to leaky radiators. Ethylene glycol delivers serious damage to the kidneys, so don’t take any risks and avoid those puddles!
10. Offer Extra Water
After your vigilance in keeping your pup and kitty away from puddles, be sure to provide extra water at home. It is very important that your pets stay well-hydrated if they are going to be able to regulate their body temperature. If you have water bowls outside, choose plastic because metals bowls could freeze.
11. Add More Calories to the Diet
In addition to keeping your pets hydrated, consider providing extra treats. This is a good idea for several reasons during the holidays, but it can also provide a few extra calories that are important to helping your furry friends stay warm after playing hard in the cold.
12. Guard Against Foreign Body Ingestion
The holiday season, starting with Halloween and extending into the new year, increase the danger of foreign body ingestions. In other words, dogs and cats are more likely to swallow non-food items during this time of year. Seasonal decorations, bits of turkey bones, and Christmas tree ornaments can all become choking hazards. If these items are swallowed, your dog or cat may need surgery to recover from the situation. Be as vigilant to pet-proof your home during the holidays as you are about keeping the area safe for small children.
13. Prevent Car Accidents
One common cold weather danger that often goes unnoticed by pet owners comes in the form of warm car engines. Cold animals might crawl under the hood or up into the wheel well. You can avoid hurting the neighbors’ cats and any other hidden animals by banging on the car hood to scare them away from your car before you turn it on.
Get More Tips From Your Veterinarians
Some pet owners, especially new owners, don’t know the ins and outs of pet care during cold months. If you’re new to pet ownership, visit with your veterinarian for more tips. By following these simple steps, you should be able to keep your dogs and cats comfortable and happy all season long.
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