Here on Long Island, we’re in the jaws of winter…
…and when we’re not making healthy hot chocolate, we’re keeping warm by cozying up with our dogs and cats. With a little TLC, you can keep your pet in tip top shape during the freezing season!
Here are some important things to keep in mind this winter season when it comes to keeping your four-legged friends happy and healthy.
If it is too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet.
Even though they wear fur coats, cats and dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia just like people. Your pets’ tolerance for the cold is based on several factors: coat length, fat stores, activity level, health, age, and for some picky pooches, it’s simply a matter of preference. We know one husky mix who acts like a big baby when the white stuff accumulates (we’re looking at you, Jedi!) while Papi the Chihuahua can’t wait to get outdoors and romp around. Short-coated and small dogs may do well to wear an extra jacket in the winter to keep them warm and dry.
Pets get winter skin, too!
No matter what type of coat they have, winter weather may bring on dry itchy skin. Consider supplementing their diet with an Omega-3 supplement. If your pup isn’t fond of swallowing softgels, a little coconut oil makes a tasty treat when added to food, and can help keep the scratching at bay.
Pay special attention to paws…
…especially in between the toes and paw pads where ice chunks may get lodged. The chemicals used to melt ice can be dangerous if licked off paws, and road salt can get trapped and cause pain. Massage lanolin into paw pads before going outside to help protect feet from salt and chemical agents, and help keep them from getting dry, chapped or cracked. It’s a good idea to thoroughly wash your pet’s feet when you get inside to get rid of ice-melting chemicals which may be dangerous if licked off paws.
Cold weather can bring on aches and pains for older pets.
Consider supplementing their diet with a hip and joint or glucosamine formula, and take extra care around ice or slippery patches to avoid your senior from getting hurt. Older cats may find jumping difficult with stiff, aching winter joints; if her favorite sleeping place is up high, consider moving a chair closer to make a ladder so she won’t have far to jump.
Do not leave your pets in the car.
Everyone knows not to leave your pet alone in a car during the heat, because the high temperatures may cause brain damage or death. It’s also important to not leave your pet alone in a car during cold weather either. The ASPCA warns that cars can act like a refrigerator – holding in the cold and causing animals to freeze to death. We play it safe and don’t leave our four legged friends alone in the car regardless of season.
No pet should be left outside for long periods of time in freezing weather…
…but if your pet does need to be outside, make sure they have a safe, warm place to seek shelter with plenty of water – not ice or snow to drink. Cats will often seek shelter in the wheel well of your car, so take a moment and check before you drive off.
Finally, be mindful of what your pet eats.
If he or she is more inactive, preferring to curl up and nap when it’s chilly, they may not need as many calories, so keep an eye on their winter weight because–just like people–it’s an easy time of year to pack on the pounds. Active, outdoorsy pets may actually need extra calories, so if you’re not sure, check with your vet.
What are your favorite ways to keep your four legged friend healthy, safe and active when the temperature drops?
Health & happiness,
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