How to Prevent Your Pet From Getting Sick During the Winter Season
Published on: December 5, 2017 | Author: Starwood Animal Transport
We humans think of winter as cold and flu season. But our pets can become sick or injured, too, when the Old Man Winter comes around. Nobody wants that, so we’ve pulled together some tips that will help you prepare now to keep your favorite feline or canine safe and healthy all season long.
Three words: warm and dry
Just because your pet has a natural, furry coat does not mean she is immune to the cold – no matter how much she loves to play in the snow. Unless your girl is a malamute, Newfie or other breed born to endure extreme cold, your dog (or cat) should have extra protection when it’s freezing outside.
Small dogs and those with very short or thin coats are most susceptible, but even bigger dogs can get frostbite and hypothermia if they are outside, unprotected, too long. Frostbite can be extremely painful, and hypothermia can be fatal. If you live where it’s rainy but not super-cold, invest in a pet poncho that rolls up neatly around the neck, ready to be quickly unfurled when needed.
A right-sized coat or sweater covers most of your pet’s body, but her ears, nose, paws, and tail are still exposed. These areas are most vulnerable. If your pet gets wet or snowy outside, dry her thoroughly when she comes in. Damp fur leads to dry skin and other discomforts.
Let’s talk about those paws
You wouldn’t want to run around outside in your bare feet when it’s freezing (or below). Brrrrrr. The best solution for dogs is warm rain or snow booties – if you can get your pooch to cooperate. Some don’t mind, others go nuts. And we’re guessing your cat has no intention of becoming the next “Puss in Boots.” So it’s up to you to protect those poor, bare paws.
Don’t let your pet walk around where there might be antifreeze on the ground, such as your garage or driveway. Antifreeze is sweet, so it’s extra-tempting to lick. But even a tiny amount can be lethal. That goes for some commercial deicers, too. Even salt is bad for your pet. Always rinse or at least wipe off her feet after she’s been outdoors.
Cold air dries your pet’s skin just as it does yours. You can’t smear her with lotion, but you can:
- Bathe her less often (bathing also dries the skin)
- Feed her a salmon or coconut oil supplement
- Buy special healing balm formulated just for pets
Apply that balm to areas that appear red or scaly, such as her nose. And definitely apply it to your girl’s paws. You can also use coconut oil, or make your own paw balm.
Make play while the sun shines
The colder it is, the less time your pet should spend outside. (Considering keeping your kitty indoors all the time in the winter, even if she’s normally an indoor-outdoor lady.) Make potty breaks as short as possible. Keep play time and walks short, too, and do them in the middle of the day when it’s warmest.
Don’t “pad” your pet with an extra layer of fat
Some pet parents feed their furry companions more in winter, thinking a little extra weight will provide added protection from the cold. No! Drop that! Even an extra pound or two can be seriously unhealthy for your girl, depending on how big she is to begin with. If your dog or cat is more sedentary in winter, you may want to cut back on food. Conversely, if your pooch is your snowshoeing or skiing partner, she may need extra food. Talk to your vet about this.
With outdoor play opportunities potentially curtailed, you can combine feeding and exercise. Toss kibble down the hall so your pup or kitty can chase it. Teach your dog to catch pieces of food in midair. Stock up on puzzle toys that require dogs and cats to work for their meal. This is good mental as well as physical exercise.
Check your emergency go-bag
In previous articles, we’ve noted the importance of being prepared in case of a natural disaster. You should have a pet first aid kit at home, but also a bag packed with essentials in case you have to leave quickly. In winter, that go-bag can do double duty, ensuring you’re provisioned with pet essentials should you get snowed in for a few days. So check now to be sure you have extra blankets, food, bottled water, any medications your pet takes.
Prevention is the best medicine
But there is one more rather obvious thing you can do to keep your pet warm and happy this winter. Apply frequent belly rubs and cuddles. Lavishing love on your pet is guaranteed to keep you warm and happy, too.
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