Protect Your Pet From Winter's Woes
The winter months bring with them a variety of health and safety issue for our pets. Even in areas of the country that aren’t normally affected by snow and ice storms, shorter days and inclement weather can keep our pets from feeling their best.
There are a variety of steps that pet owners can take to protect their pets from health and safety concerns during the winter:
Keep up regular exercise
In many parts of the country, the shorter days and long, cold nights provide a great excuse for lingering in front of the fireplace. But dogs confined indoors because of winter weather will lack proper exercise and are likely to gain weight.
On days when the weather permits, be sure your dog gets a good long walk or a romp with canine friends at the dog park. Be sure to tailor the activity and the time spent outdoors to your specific pet, taking into account such factors as age, health and breed.
Some breeds can tolerate the cold for longer periods of time than others. Breeds like Huskies and Samoyeds will romp and play outdoors as long as you’ll let them. Small breeds and dogs with short coats should wear a sweater or specially-made doggie jacket when venturing out on very cold days.
If your pet does spend a lot of time outdoors, moderately increase his food to keep fur thick and healthy as protection against the cold. However, if your pet is less active during the winter months because he spends more time indoors, be cautious about what he eats, or he may put on extra weight.
Coping with winter depression
Fewer hours of day light mean fewer opportunities for outdoor exercise during the winter months. Energetic dogs who require lots of active play can become frustrated and depressed and this can lead to a variety of problem behaviors — from barking and howling, to chewing furniture or messing in the house.
Giving your pet more attention and encouraging active play whenever possible can help.
If snow and ice simply make outdoor play impossible, consider enrolling your pet in a doggy day camp program. These programs are designed to let dogs exercise and play with other dogs in a safe, supervised, indoor environment. Most dogs can benefit significantly by participating just once or twice each week.
Grooming for wellness
Wintertime can be tough on skin and hair – not just for humans, but for pets, as well. With windows closed and heaters on, low humidity indoors can make your pet’s skin dry and itchy and can cause static electricity in his coat.
Weekly home maintenance can help to keep your pet comfortable and his skin and coat healthy all winter, according to pet grooming professionals. And regular shampooing can help prevent other problems.
Other winter safety tips
Here are some other ways to "winter-safe" your pet:
- Beware of antifreeze – it is extremely poisonous and as little as a few teaspoonsful can kill a small dog or a cat. Unfortunately, the chemical has a sweet taste that animals like, so it’s critical to keep it out of reach and clean up even small amounts that drip onto the floor or driveway.
- Don’t use metal water dishes outside; your pet’s tongue could stick to the frozen metal. Purchase a non-freeze water bowl or use a heavy plastic dish and check the water several times a day to be certain it is not frozen.
- Remember that cats like to sleep under the hoods of cars in the winter. To avoid injuring your pet, always bang on the hood and wait a few seconds before starting the engine so your cat will have the chance to escape.
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