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Preparing Your Pet for the Winter Season

The dreaded winter season is upon us and for your pets, that means there are some steps you should take to make sure they are taken care of and are ready for all that the next few months will bring. It’s not just weather-related issues but all the dangers that come with the holidays, the stresses, and even putting on a few extra pounds. So here’s what you need to do to prepare:

  1. It’s cold outside…and inside might not be all it’s cracked up to be either! – As temperatures drop, its not as much fun or comfortable to be outside for long periods of time. It’s encouraged to bring pets indoors as the cold weather can cause frostbite, affect joints, and lead to breathing problems as the cold air constricts airways. Water bowls can also freeze, and the wind chill can cause skin damage. Warm coats and boots can help with extreme weather conditions, but if it’s too miserable for you, the same goes for pets. Indoors creates a whole new set of problems with the drier air and lack of humidity causing mucous membranes such as eyes and airways to dry up if it’s too warm. And believe it or not, cats won’t know that wood stove is too hot until they jump on it.
  2. Poisons everywhere! – Changing your antifreeze in your car may be a seasonal routine for you, but accumulation on your driveway, garage, or in a bucket can be fatal to your pet causing a rapid onset kidney failure. There are pet-friendly salts out there nowadays but other salts may cause burns on the feet for some sensitive pets or if they decide to eat it can cause some issues affecting the brains. Tree water additives might keep your tree green & fresh looking but can also cause an upset stomach. If you like to bake, keep the furry ones out of the kitchen. Raw dough can be eaten then ferment in the stomach leading to alcohol poisoning. Raisins or chocolate and some nuts (macadamias, pistachios, pecans, hickory) can lead to kidney failure, seizures, and gastrointestinal problems. And if you still use tinsel on your tree or ribbons for your gifts, just don’t – your cats will be happier without a potential foreign body and so will you.
  3. A time to come together – Whether you enjoy your family get-togethers or would rather avoid the in-laws, more people and activity in the house is a virtual guarantee at this time of year. Extra people in the house can be a stressful time for your pets. Unless your pet is extremely social, the extra bustle of activity can make them hide, soil in the house, vocalize, or become aggressive or destructive. The more people going in or out of the house can mean an increased chance for a pet to get loose (make sure their microchip info is up to date). We recommend having a safe space for your pet to get away from the pandemonium whether it be a separate closed off room, a crate, or even consider a boarding kennel.
  4. The dreaded winter weight – Nobody and no pet thinks about a beach body in January…and back in the days when they were wild animals, it was natural for them to put on weight in preparation as they hibernated or struggled to find food over the winter. Fortunately, pets now don’t have to face that struggle, but I do tend to see pets still put on weight over the winter. Those extra pounds do no favours for their joints or their grooming habits. If your pet is getting less activity (not going out as much or as long), a good idea is to cut back on the food about 10-20%, so they aren’t taking in as many calories.

These tips can help you avoid some preventable problems and avoid some unnecessary pet emergency visits. Enjoy the next few months (if you love winter) or hope for an early spring!!

Written by: Dr. Ryan Llera, DVM

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