Winter Care Tips for Pets
November 14, 2012
Although today hovered around perfect room temperature, the colder days are coming and it may affect our pets. I think it is particularly difficult for us South Carolinians to prepare for the cold because it simply doesn’t last long. But, it does get bone chilling damp and by February we may see temperatures cold enough to freeze our pipes. It really doesn’t get cold enough to put young healthy dogs and cats who have appropriate shelter at risk, but what about those without adequate shelter? What about the old and the young?
Since our temperatures seem to go up and down, our pets don’t adapt to below freezing temperatures as well as those who get used to temps in the 50s, then the 40s, then the 30s etc… Our pets have to deal with drops from 70 to 40 in 24 hours. This does not give their bodies time to adapt to the cold. So, if it is going to get cold, we need to make sure our pets, especially the young and old, have appropriate shelter, like access to the inside or a dry, draft-free dog house with warm bedding.
Arthritis really acts up in Lowcountry winter weather so our older dogs seem the most affected by our damp, chilly cold. If your older pet lives outside, I recommend you bring him or her inside, especially at night, during this time of year. But remember that concrete, tile and hardwood floors may be quite cold. Thick wool bedding is important to get these older pets off the cold surfaces. One of my patients, an elderly boxer, refuses to sleep on her comfy bed. She used to sleep on the couch, but now that she can no longer jump on and off, she seems to prefer the hardwood floor. But, she awakes so cold and stiff that her owner was concerned. This problem was solved by putting her in pajamas at night. She seems to love them and she wakes up less stiff. Other older pets may benefit from non-electric heating pads (electric heating pads can be a fire hazard and can burn a pet if they get wet, say from inappropriate urination or drooling) or light bulbs overhead. Just make sure that your pet can easily move away from the heat source if they get too hot. Puppies should be treated in the same way because they have a decreased ability to maintain body heat.
Indoor dogs eat less in the winter as they sleep more and burn less calories. So, be careful not to overfeed during the cold weather. Outdoor pets need more calories to help them keep up their body temperature. Water bowls must be free of ice, so keep an eye on your pet’s outdoor water source.
Cars are particularly attractive to animals in the winter. Frigid cats love to climb up under the hood and curl up on the warm motor. This, as you can imagine, has led to many mishaps when motorists start their car. Avoid such accidents by tapping your car’s hood before starting the vehicle. Many motorists also break out the anti-freeze this time of year. Keep your pets well away from this poison. Even a single lap of anti-freeze can be deadly. And, despite its green color, animals love anti-freeze as it is sweet in flavor.
If you have your dog at the beach or near a favorite swimming hole, he will probably still want to swim despite the colder temperatures. Be prepared to thoroughly towel dry a wet dog so he doesn’t get chilled.
And finally, remember that fleas and mosquitoes don’t go away in the Lowcountry winter. You must continue flea and heartworm prevention throughout these winter months. Trying to skip a dose or two in order to save a few bucks can cost you a bundle in the long run, as heartworms are deadly and treatment is expensive. Eradicating a flea infestation is equally expensive, so keep your pets health this winter by adhering to the old motto that prevention is the best medicine.