As the temperatures continue to drop across the United States, our pets are exposed to multiple physical and emotional dangers. Although our pets have some natural defenses against the cold, winter affects our pets and puts them at certain risks. Most of these risks can be prevented with proper awareness and planning. Read on to learn about the importance of protecting our pets during the winter and how to do it.
Protect Their Paws and Skin
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), our pet’s paws are vulnerable to cold. They can get chapped and itchy, and contract chemicals such as anti-freezers that are meant to melt snow.
You can protect their paws by applying jelly or paw-protectants before going outside. We also recommend booties for added paw protection.
The skin of pets is also vulnerable this time of year. The sudden change in temperatures from outside to a warmer inside can lead to flaking, itching, and redness. You should dry your pet every time they go outside or come inside. Pay close attention to the snow balls that can be trapped on the undercoat and in between toes.
Also, don’t bathe your pet as often as you normally would in warmer months. Over-bathing will remove the natural oils that protect the skin from flaking. If necessary, choose a moisturizing shampoo that will help protect the skin. For long-haired pets, it is important to trim their coat. Just be careful not to shave them down since coats provide vital body heat protection. Short-haired pets should wear winter clothing such as coats or sweaters.
Body Temperature Maintenance
There are several ways you can help your pet achieve and maintain the right body temperature during the cold winter months.
One way to do it is to tweak their diets. As pets have to spend more energy to keep their bodies warmer, you can feed them a bit more to provide the extra calories needed for body heat. Just make sure their weight does not increase too much. As we find in our article about pet obesity, it affects a large number of household pets and carries severe health risks. Keep the pet at a healthy weight as the extra weight will become a burden and a health risk after the winter months.
Pets will also look for places around the house that contain heat better, so it is important to provide a warm bed with plenty of blankets and pillows that can help maintain the pet’s outer temperature.
Also, never leave your pet alone in the car outside. Pets can freeze, become disoriented, lost, stolen, injured or killed if left outside or inside the car. The vehicle would serve as a refrigerator just like it serves an oven during the hotter days of summer.
A good rule of thumb to follow is if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet, regardless of their coat thickness, so it is best to keep your animals inside, and to limit the walks according to the level of cold tolerance of the specific pet.
According to the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA), cold weather has the potential to worsen medical conditions such as arthritis. Be sure to get your pet their annual or semi-annual preventive care exam. Proper health monitoring reduces the risk of preventable health ailments.
Pets with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances (such as Cushing’s disease) may have a harder time regulating their body temperature, and may be more susceptible to problems from temperature extremes.
The AVMA also suggests checking for physical signs, such as whining, shivering, anxiety, decrease in activity, weakness, or if the pet starts looking for warm places to burrow, as these are showing signs of hypothermia.
Just like humans, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression, can affect our pets. Winter months bring a a lack of sunlight, colder temperatures, and changes in smells.
These types of changes can create an uncomfortable feeling for your pet, and they may start feeling down as the months progress. It is important to consistently stimulate your pet’s mind. You can accomplish this by activities such as teaching the pet new tricks, playing inside, or creating an inside obstacle course.
Protecting Our Pets During the Winter: Everyone Can Enjoy Colder Months
Remember, our pets depend on us to keep them safe. Being mindful of their needs and potential dangers can help us keep our pets healthier for longer. When in doubt, reach out to a veterinarian for more tips and advice, as well as immediate medical attention, and lastly, let’s stay warm this winter!