With winter fast approaching we also see the arrival of some very cold days and even chillier nights. Winter is a cosy time for sitting by fires and rugging up with a warm cup of tea. However avoiding the cold isn’t as easy for our pets and can be a very challenging time for them as they are faced with possible flea infestations, accidental poisonings, arthritis and general discomfort with the change of season. That is why it’s so important that pet owners are aware of the problems that may arise and the precautions that they will need to put in place. The 10 Winter survival tips will help your pet stay happy, warm and safe this winter.
Survival Tip #1: Treat your pet for fleas all year round
As the temperature drops many owners believe that fleas die off and using flea control is no longer necessary. This is a common misconception as a warm heated home provides the ideal environment for fleas to breed and it is crucial that flea control is a year round commitment. Pets should be treated every month to ensure they remain protected 365 days a year.
Survival Tip #2: Provide your pet with extra warmth
When we start to feel the cold we put on extra layers – we wear jumpers and socks, and if it’s really cold, we put on gloves and a beanie. We also make sure that our kids are warm and cover them up with extra layers of clothes – but what do we do for our pets? Many pets are just not suited to the cooler weather and like us, will be a lot more comfortable in a warm winter coat that can protect them from the elements.
There are coats designed for dogs of all sizes and needs, with coats for indoor dogs that are lightweight and warm (the WeatherBeeta Buddy Dog Coat), to coats for outdoor dogs living in harsher conditions that are strong and waterproof (the WeatherBeeta Landa Dog Coat), as well as there being a coat for every climate or situation in between.
Survival Tip #3: Be cautious when using poison baits for rodents
Every year rats and mice invade properties in search of shelter in the cooler months, leading to an increased use of baits and poisons in winter.
These poisons can pose a great risk to our pets if eaten and can lead to a decreased appetite, blood stained urine, blood stained discharge from mouth or back end, breathing difficulties, and can cause them to collapse or even lead to sudden death.
Make sure all bait blocks and pellets are placed in bait stations to guard against the accidental poisoning of children and pets. If your pet shows any signs of being poisoned seek professional asdive immediately.
Survival Tip #4: Moderate your pets food intake
Just like humans, pets use energy to create body heat, and in winter may require extra calories to maintain a comfortable warmth. This means that if you live in the colder parts of Australia then you may need to increase the size of your pet’s meals by a small amount to help them to stay healthy. It is important not to overdo it though as this may make it hard for them to lose the weight in the warmer months, so I would recommend just a small increase of up to 10% if you feel it is necessary. You may also want to check with your veterinarian to decide if your pet requires any additional nutritional intake.
Survival Tip #5: Provide a warm shelter
When the weather starts getting cooler, most pets would love nothing more than to come inside and curl up in a nice warm spot in the house, but this may not always be possible and pets that spend long periods of time outside will need to have adequate shelter and warmth to protect them.
A good kennel needs to be strong, waterproof and insulated and should be elevated off the ground and away from any wind draughts. The kennel should also be large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around inside, but small enough that it will retain their body heat.
To add extra warmth you can line your pet’s shelter with an old blanket or bedding. It is important to remember to ensure that any sheets or blankets do not become damp or dirty and that they are changed regularly to make sure that fleas are not allowed to breed. The WeatherBeeta Travel Bed and WeatherBeeta Fleece Throw are a great idea as they can both be easily washed and kept clean.
Survival Tip #6: Provide adequate water
When the mercury is down and pets are not as active as they usually are, many owners forget to check that their pets have enough water. But no matter what time of year it is, it is important to make sure that your pets have access to clean fresh water whenever they need a drink.
Pets need to be kept hydrated in every temperature and by leaving fresh water out it will encourage them to keep drinking even when they are not feeling as thirsty.
Survival Tip #7: Be aware of signs of arthritis
As pets get older they become more susceptible to the effects of arthritis and in the colder months of winter they may begin to show early signs of onset. If your pet is having trouble getting up or laying down, climbing the stairs, or has started to snap or cry when picked up, you should visit your veterinarian for advice.
There are many new arthritis treatments now available including over-the-counter supplements such as Joint Powder for Dogs, Joint Guard and Sashas Blend, which are all high in glucosamine and other ingredients which help to control and manage arthritis. In severe cases veterinarians may need to prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs for your pet.
Remember, NEVER give your pet human prescription medication or over-the-counter medications without consulting your veterinarian first!
Survival Tip #8: Be cautious of winter hiding spots
Many pets – cats in particular – can become extremely crafty in their search for warmth, and can turn every day household objects such as a warm car engine, clothes-dryer or fireplace into a perfectly snug sleeping spot. Pet owners should be vigilant in the colder weather to make sure that they know where their pets are before starting their car’s engine or closing the door and turning the dryer on.
A great idea is to set up a cosy, cat basket near a heat source, lined with a warm blanket. This will be an ideal place for your pets to curl up to and you will be able to rest assured that you will always know that your pet is resting safely in their favourite spot.
Survival Tip #9: Pet-safe your electrical devices
On a cold day nothing could be better for a pet than to snuggle up next to a warm heater in the living room and settle in for a long nap, but when it comes to electronics and pets, owners need to be very careful.
Firstly there is a large danger that an unsupervised pet could knock over a portable heater and cause a house fire and secondly, if they get too close to the heat source they can run the risk of being burnt or singed.
There is also the risk that they could chew through the electrical cords so it is important that pets are supervised at all times.
Survival Tip #10: Exercise your pets
Let’s face it, some mornings we just don’t feel like getting up in the cold and going for a run. But that doesn’t mean that we should make out pets miss out on their daily exercise. Pets that are cooped up inside for long periods of time become restless and can begin to display unwanted behavioural patterns.
It is important that your pets get at least one hour of exercise each day, even through the colder months, and to do this you may need to get creative. If it really is too cold to go outside then maybe you could play a few games with your pets inside – if you have enough room.
Games can include running up and down the stairs, hide-and-seek, tug-of-war, fetch and blowing pet-safe bubbles. There are also many great pet toys that are designed to keep your pets active and entertained.
Remember that exercise will also help keep up your pet’s body temperature and maintain their mental and physical health.