Winter Pet Care: A 10-point Survival Plan!
Winter is upon us! As we rug up and brace ourselves for the season that Ballarat is most famous for, we need to ensure that our pets are also ready to face the challenges that the cooler weather presents.
Please read on for our top ten winter pet care tips:
1. Arthritis Management
Winter can be particularly hard on our older pets and those with osteoarthritis. Just like people, the pain associated with arthritis can be more problematic in the cooler months of the year. A proactive arthritis management plan involves a maintenance program of anti-inflammatories, nutraceuticals and exercise, combined with weight control and environment modification to them with any mobility issues. The best time to tailor such a plan for your pet is before they experience any debilitating flare ups. Consider an arthritis check up with your veterinarian to ensure that your pet is as comfortable as possible over Winter.
2. Geriatric Pets
As our pets age, a number of health issues can arise. Winter is often a challenging time for our senior pets. A geriatric health check can allow your veterinarian to diagnose any underlying sub clinical diseases that may have developed. Renal and liver disease as well as dental and heart conditions can easily go undetected and seemingly develop suddenly in Winter. A thorough checkup and simple blood test will ensure that your pet is living their best life.
All animals require free access to fresh water at all times.
Inside pets should be especially encouraged to drink regularly for optimal hydration and urinary tract health. This is particularly important with cats. Multiple sources of clean, fresh, drinking water in various forms (water fountain, water bowl etc.) can encourage good water consumption. Also consider adding water to their food. Regularly clean and top up water bowls and closely monitor water intake. Multiple, regularly cleaned litter trays also promote good urinary tract health in cats.
4. Weight Management
Many of us are less active over winter. This often means that our pets are getting less exercise too. If we are spending more time inside over Winter often our dogs and cats will also be more sedentary.
Be sure to adjust your pet’s diet accordingly. Consider switching to a low-calorie food which is designed to maintain a feeling of fullness without the added calories. Also be sure to limit treats. ‘One treat a day’ (including training rewards, biscuits, leftovers etc.) is a good rule of thumb.
Exercise is important for musculoskeletal health. It also helps to promote good mental health and behavior in our pets. Of course, most dogs are happy to go for a walk rain, hail or shine. Daily walks encourage socialisation, improve and maintain mobility and ward off excessive weight gain. Encourage your pets to be active throughout Winter!
6. Parasite Control
Parasite control is something that should be continued even throughout Winter. Whilst fleas are typically more active during the warmer months, the ambient temperature of the inside home environment is less seasonal. This means that cats and dogs sharing our indoor living spaces can still be harboring an actively breeding flea population. For inside pets that share our family living spaces, couches and beds; regular scheduled flea and worm control is essential especially in households with small children.
With inside pets, be vigilant around heaters especially wood fires. To avoid burns or overheating, consider safety barriers to protect pets from heat sources. When outside, dogs should have access to a sheltered draught free area, ideally with a waterproof kennel which sits off the ground. Warm bedding should also be provided and needs to be carefully chosen especially for young dogs and those prone to chewing/destructive behavior. The same applies to the winter wardrobe! Animals that are likely to destroy their bedding or drag it out into the yard may be better protected if allowed to sleep in the garage or laundry. Consider using a crate.
8. Grooming and Skin Care
In Winter, grooming is particularly important. Thicker coated dogs allowed to grow a longer hair coat over Winter need to be groomed regularly to prevent painful matts from forming. Keeping the tail region clean also requires regular attention. The same applies to long haired cats. With dogs more likely to need regular bathing over Winter, it is important to pay close attention to their skin health. Over-bathing combined with external heat sources can rob the skin of moisture which in turn can make them prone to dermatitis and skin infections. Consider spot cleaning where possible instead of whole-body bathing. Also be sure to use a good quality animal shampoo and then apply conditioner after bathing. Avoid the use of hair dryers. If unavoidable, use only the cooler settings.
For thin haired dogs who live outside consider a lightweight wind and waterproof coat. In order to avoid overheating during exercise choose a dog coat that is not too insulating. Beware the chewer. Dogs prone to destructive behavior and likely to eat their wardrobe may be prone to gastrointestinal blockages. It may be best to provide such pets with additional external shelter instead or allowing them inside.
10. Pocket Pets and Birds
We strongly recommend that all small exotic pets like rabbits, ferrets and guinea pigs are moved into a sheltered area over winter especially at night and on particularly cold days. Consider moving their hutch /enclosure into an area such as a garage or shed. Provide plenty of straw and bedding for them to burrow under and closely monitor food intake, water intake and droppings.
Bird aviaries should also be similarly provided with extra protection from the cold in winter.
By following this 10 point winter pet care survival plan your pets should flourish this Winter!
These tips have been provided by the
Lucas Veterinary Clinic
9 Merz Street Lucas PH: 5303 9000