Like it or not, it’s time for the extra doona, electric blanket, coats, and scarves again as the winter chills begin to set in. But what about our pets? Is that thickening layer of fur really going to keep them snug and warm on those windy winters’ nights? Keeping tabs on how our pets are coping with seasonal changes is great pet parenting and ensures not only their optimal comfort and happiness, but also optimal health. Hmm…kind of puts it in perspective when you think about it. Our pets can be very good at hiding signs of illness or distress. Although dogs are more communicative, it is not uncommon for a dog to continue excitedly greeting you despite not feeling 100% on the inside. And all cat owners know how aloof and stoic our feline friends can be!
If you see your pet shivering or cuddling into warm spaces, these are clear signs a little more warmth is needed by our fur companions. Other signs your pet is feeling the cold might include curling up on your bed, avoiding lying on cold floor surfaces like tiles. For smaller pets like guinea pigs or rabbits, in addition to the shivers, they may start burrowing and hiding in their straw or bedding. Fortunately, your four-legged companions have you as their pet parent to help them beat the chills and support their comfort and health through the woes of winter at home.
A warm bed to snuggle into is everyone’s favourite in winter and your pet is no different. In the cooler months, it is best to move pet beds away from drafts or windows that don’t insulate as well, slightly elevate beds, so they are not lying directly on cold, hard surfaces and add an extra blanket for warmth and comfort. Microwavable heating pads are a special treat that you can place under blankets for an extra cosy experience and are a safer option when compared to hot water bottles or electric heating pads if toilet training or chewing are still in play. If you have an outdoor sleeper, ensure that bedding is kept dry, and kennels are also elevated slightly. You may want to consider an inside sleeping space to ensure your pet is kept warm, dry, and away from cold drafts.
If you are finding that your pet is spending more time indoors in winter, you may want to amp up the play toys to replace the mental and physical activity that would be gained from the wonders of the outdoors. If you notice your fur baby is a little more sedentary over winter, keep an eye on their food intake to avoid the winter kilo creep.
Getting out and about for daily exercise is still very important in winter, and if you are donning an additional layer for walkies, then you could also consider an additional winter coat for your walking buddy. This is especially important if you have a thin, older, or short haired breed. The ideal pet coat or jumper will give coverage from the neck to the base of the tail while also giving protection to their belly and fit well without restricting movement. Once you are back in the warmer climes of home, remember to take the pet coat off to avoid over-heating under all those layers.
Keeping up grooming routines over winter will also support your pets’ comfort and health. Many pet parents leave their dogs and cats coats to grow long over winter to keep them warm, but this can lead to some skin problems, matting and hours of tormented brushing to remove unwanted knots.
Whilst winter chills can bring more discomfort for our fur companions, cooler temperatures and additional dampness can increase the risk of illness, and joint pain, especially for our more mature pets. Joint pain, due to arthritis can worsen in the cooler months, and you may see increased difficulty in getting up onto a couch, or using stairs, or just taking a longer time rising from lying on the floor. Our ever-stoic companions are unlikely to complain about this, but they nevertheless could be in pain that could be managed by your vet.
Dry skin can be another medical issue that arises in winter, as pets are exposed to cooler temperatures outside, and then sit by a heater when inside. Avoiding extreme temperatures such as the use of hairdryers after a bath can help protect the skin, but if you notice an increase in itching or your pet seems bothered, a vet visit could be in order.
A winter health check at Vetmed can ensure your pet is ready for the cold, and any early signs of complications brought on by winter can be readily managed. Other than that, the highlight of winter as a pet owner is naturally the extra snuggles and cuddles we can enjoy with our furry family members, keeping each other warm, and fighting off any risk of the winter blues.