Caring for our pets during winter
During winter the most vulnerable of our pets are the very young, the elderly and Pets like rabbits and Guinea Pigs
There are a few practical things that we can do to keep our pets happy!
¤ Do not allow dogs to swim in icy water or to walk on frozen lakes, this may seem to be common sense but often dogs being exercised off lead will venture and get into trouble. The best advice is to keep them on the lead or use an extending lead so that you are in control of them!
¤ Dog’s hair will grow and change in accordance to the environment they live in. Dogs that live indoors will have a thinner coat to dogs that live outside. Saying that there are factors to consider which will affect this…
Breeds like Westies and Poodles are often clipped on a regular basis all year round; this removes any waterproof coat that they would naturally have therefore the hair if it does get wet will stay wet and make them cold. Some owners choose not to clip during the winter months but it does take time for the coat to become waterproof again. Alternatively fitting them with a dog waterproof coat may be a good option, if your dog has never worn one it may take some getting used to but most will adjust quite quickly!
If they spend a lot of time outside then their coat will adapt to become thicker and more waterproof, saying that dogs should be provided with somewhere to shelter and ideally a warm, draught free bed
Our homes are generally kept nice and warm during the winter; if our pets share this warmth then their coat will adapt to stop them from overheating. Moulting hair is a pain for most owners but the reason they do this is a way of controlling their temperature. Regular brushing will help to remove the dead coat which is being shed and will help to reduce the moulting hair in your home!
Cats may choose to be indoors more during the winter months; this can cause a few problems…
¤ Ideally provide a litter tray indoors, cats will often get lazy and will not go outside if it’s wet/cold. If they hold on going to the toilet, this can cause bladder problems like cystitis
¤ Putting on weight! If they become lazy lounging around all day and night in the house this will make them put on weight, monitor their weight and adjust feeding accordingly, they do make light foods for less active cats!
¤ Antifreeze solution that you put in the car is very poisonous to cats, unfortunately it tastes very sweet and they are very drawn to drinking it. The best advice is to keep the solution locked away so that they do not have access to it. If you suspect that your cat may have drank some then urgently seek veterinary advice. The symptoms of poisoning are very vague but these are things to look out for, Vomiting, drowsiness, appearing uncoordinated, seizures. They will usually go into kidney failure so the sooner they can be treated the better
Dogs & Cats
Elderly cats and dogs
Often start to show signs of stiffness when the cold and damp weather arrives.
For dogs, taking their time to get out of bed in the morning may be the 1st sign that owners notice or a reluctance to go for walks.
In cats, reluctance to jump on high surfaces or using lower surfaces as a step to get up high can be a sign of arthritis. Sometimes they will continue to groom but miss parts out like around their backend, which again might mean that they are in pain.
Owners sometimes think that its just them getting old BUT there are often things that we are able to do to help this!
Young Dogs and cats
¤ Puppies and kittens have very fluffy coats. These coats aren’t waterproof and therefore it is very important to make sure that they stay dry. For dogs using a dog waterproof coat is an option or to make sure that if they do get wet they are thoroughly dried off using towels or a hairdryer if they tolerate it. For kittens staying indoors is the best option, until they get their adult coat.
¤ House training a puppy in the winter can be very difficult as it’s too cold to have all the doors open. Try not to use Puppy training mats as an alternative to going outside as this will cause confusion about where you expect them to go and will make training longer. Remember puppies need to go to the toilet regularly so make sure you take them out regularly, Certainly when they wake up, after eating/drinking, after playing.
For more advice on toilet training contact your vet.
Rabbits, Guinea pigs
They tend to suffer with the cold more due to their lifestyle, living outside can make the winter a tough time for them!
¤ If they are housed outside in a hutch then ideally during the cold winter months they should be moved somewhere like a shed or garage. This stops the hutch getting wet and will help to reduce draughts
¤ Provide extra bedding! Straw is very good at providing warmth much better than hay (although hay should be given as part of their diet – ideally fed from a hay rack)
If possible try to litter train them, they will often use one area of the hutch, introduce a plastic tray for them to use, this way the bedding in the hutch is kept clean and not wet
¤ In very cold weather make sure that water bottles are insulated to prevent them from freezing, putting a hot water bottle in the bottom of their bedding area can keep them warm. Providing extra covers over the front of the hutch can also help keep the warmth in
¤When they aren’t able to exercise outside ideally an indoor area for them to stretch their legs can be helpful so that they don’t get stiff
¤ Offer plenty of food, keeping warm uses a lot of energy! Hay should be provided all the time as much as they want to eat and then a controlled amount of pelleted food and some fresh greens
Consult your Vet 1st
¤ Having your elderly pet health checked will make sure that they are keeping well.
¤ If we find they have stiff/painful joints, there are joint supplements, pain relief medications and also additional therapies that may help!
Giving supplements of Glucosamine and Chondroitin can help the joints to be healthier. These take up to 6 weeks to have a full effect and they would stay on them everyday long-term. They have very few side effects so are really good to give to any aging dog/cat to offer them a bit of extra support. We would advise to give a veterinary recommended animal product, this way the dose will be worked out for you.
¤ These should be done by a qualified person and often will ask for a referral from the vet. Both these therapies can make older dogs fitter, improve muscle strength and are usually well tolerated.
¤ Offer plenty of bedding, its important that older animals have padding around their joints
¤ Keep your dog active, they may not want to go on their usual long walk but it’s important not to stop exercise. Change to several short walks, this will keep their fitness up and keep their joints moving helping them not to get stiff!
¤ Cats like to get up high up on surfaces, if they are struggling to jump up then Providing lower platforms for cats to jump onto can really help them
¤ Cats that are struggling to groom may need you to help them brushing around their backend and hind legs, if they do not like being groomed then it may be a matter of taking your time to get them used to it
¤ Monitor your pet’s weight. If they are carrying extra weight then this will put extra pressure on their joints, heart and other organs and sadly can shorten their life. Check that your pet is on a suitable diet, one for senior pet’s, check that they are being fed the correct amount for their weight. If you are concerned about your pet being over or under weight then consult your vet