Winter woes get to us all, with cold, dry air, dark mornings and heavy rain. It truly is the perfect time of year to snuggle up under the doona, but as you do, don’t forget that animals feel the cold too! I had a chat with RSPCA NSW Chief Veterinarian, Liz Arnott, who offered these fab tips for keeping out fur kids cosy, warm and healthy – and avoiding the winter woes – when the mercury drops.
A Fur Coat Doesn’t Stop Winter Woes
“If you can feel the chill in the air, your pet typically can too,” says Dr. Liz. “Your fur babies will need a bit of extra care to stay cosy, happy and healthy during the colder months.”
Enter, clothing for pets. While for many, this may evoke visions of crazy old women crocheting outfits for Fido or Kitty, these days, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, legit pet care companies like Doggone Gorgeous, release a high fashion and perfectly functional line of polar fleeces, puffer coats, raincoats and more each winter, to ensure your baby stays snug as a pug in a rug.
“At all times of year, but especially so in winter, your animals need adequate shelter, and to be protected from the rain and wind,” stresses Dr. Liz. If they’re indoor animals, they’ll require a warm area to sleep that is elevated from the cold floor and away from drafts. Pocket pets will need extra bedding – don’t assume they’ll snuggle up together. If you have a fireplace or use heaters, ensure these have safety grills and screens and your pet’s bedding is a safe distance away from the source of heat – otherwise your pet could burn himself. The golden rule is always “stay at least a metre from the heater”.
If your pet is an outdoor dweller, ensure their shelter covers the “three W’s” – Warm, Waterproof and Windproof. “This could mean a warm kennel which is elevated from the ground with thick bedding materials,” says Dr Liz, adding, “don’t forget about farm animals – they should be able to get from their paddocks into three-sided shelters to escape the cold, rain and wind. Remember that putting a rug on a horse is not a substitute for shelter. Even your chooks will need extra bedding.”
“Remember that young, elderly and sick animals will feel the cold more than others, so are best kept indoors. No matter how old they are, in extreme weather conditions, bring them inside when possible,” stresses Dr Liz.
Expect An Increase In Appetite
Your fur kid is likely to want to eat more during the colder months to keep them warm, so don’t be surprised if your pet’s appetite increases. That’s because animals need more energy to keep their core body temperature regulated when it’s cold.
“This is particularly important if your pet spends significant amounts of time outside or is exposed to colder temperatures, as horses may be,” says Dr Liz. “Horses use food as a source of warmth. Providing your horse free access to good quality hay will help keep them warm when the temperature drops.”
However, don’t go overboard with the food. Speak to your veterinarian about how much to feed your fur baby, as carrying too much weight can be a health hazard for all animals.
Your dog will definitely appreciate a few extra treats throughout the day, but choose a brand that has no added fat, artificial flavours, sugars, salt and preservatives. At The Carousel, we love a quality brand like Nude Pets, which ticks all the boxes. This nutritious brand is handmade in small batches and contains absolutely no nasties – just premium quality free range, Australian grown and raised meats and veggies.
Healthy Pets Are Happy Pets
Just like we humans, cats and dogs with arthritis will feel the condition inflame more throughout autumn and winter. “In fact, winter might even be the first time you notice the signs of arthritis in your pet,” says Dr Liz. “Keep an eye out for your dog standing up more slowly, limping, slowing down, cats reluctant to jump up onto the same surfaces they used to… Your cat may even start to find it difficult to reach around to groom the hair on their back. Even your pet seeming grumpier and less interested in handling can be a sign they are uncomfortable.”
At this point – if not earlier – it is vital to consult your vet, as there are a range of treatments available to prevent your pet from being in pain. Your vet can also advise you on right body weight for your fur baby, how much activity they should be getting and even how to gently massage your dog or cat to relieve their discomfort.”
If you know your pet has arthritis, keeping it warm will help ease the pain. Even a little inside wool knit or polar fleece warm will help keep the heat in and therefore ease any pain.
You may be tempted to stop treating your dog or cat for fleas during winter. However, while it might be cold outside, fleas can survive in the warmth of houses, so keep the parasite control up at all times.
Winter woes in the form of mice is not something you’d typically associate with pets. However, it is actually the time people have trouble with mice as they enter homes looking for food and warmth. “Poisons used to control rodents are not only deadly to our pets but are also very attractive and tempting for them to eat,” says Dr Liz. “The safest approach is to never use these poisons if you own a pet, but if you do make sure they are inaccessible to even the most curious dog or cat and call your vet as a matter of emergency if you have any suspicion that they have had access to the poison or indeed ingested it.”
“It may be tempting to turn into a couch potato during the winter months, but exercising your animals is still important,” says Dr. Liz. “Dogs will hate being cooped up all season. If it’s raining, you could play indoor hide-and-seek instead, do some trick training to keep your pet’s mind active, use food-dispensing toys to stop it from becoming bored, or organise an indoor doggy play date.”