Winter Tips for Pets
As winter quickly approaches, it’s time to prepare ourselves for the colder months. There are also ways in which you can prepare your pets to keep them comfortable during the winter. This is especially important for our older pets as conditions such as arthritis can be exacerbated by cold and damp weather.
In this blog we discuss winter tips for pets, looking in particular at the strain of arthritis in the colder months.
Keeping Your Pet Comfortable
For dogs, specially designed coats can help keep off the chill and rain, particularly when going out. They come in a range of designs, including full-body fleece coats which have the added advantage of keeping your pet from getting too muddy.
Some dogs, such as some toy breeds or those with a thin coat of hair (e.g. whippets), may need a jumper both outside and indoors to keep warm.
Another consideration is where your pet sleeps at night; make sure they won’t get cold from the cool air rising from uncarpeted floors and that the area is draft-free.
Older cats may need help to access a bed as they may find it difficult to get to a warm spot. Ramps or steps up to a bed can help your cat move around independently and allow them to get to higher areas where they may feel more comfortable.
For both cats and dogs, pet-safe microwavable pads are available to provide a bit of extra warmth and are safer than using a hot water bottle - though still use these with care and appropriate covers to avoid burns.
Raising food and water bowls may also help your pet if they are feeling less mobile in the winter months and stair gates and non-slip matting on smooth floors may be needed if they are struggling with their mobility.
Noticing your pet becoming a little less mobile and stiffer, particularly in cold weather, can be a sign of arthritis. The most common type of arthritis we see in pets is called osteoarthritis and occurs when joints start to become roughened. Nowadays there are a range of options for treating this very common condition.
Prescription medications - your Vet can recommend some that have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. There are several different types of medication, and it may take some trial and error to find the best combination for your pet. Some pets may start on one type of medication and then have others added to their regime as the arthritis progresses.
Joint supplements - there are a huge number of different brands on the market, some with a more effective combination of ingredients than others, so it is well worth discussing these with your Vet to find the best one for your pet.
Acupuncture - this has been shown to help relieve discomfort. There are many Vets now trained in animal acupuncture.
Hydrotherapy - this can help build muscle to support the joints without placing undue strain on them. This needs to be undertaken at a designated pet hydrotherapy centre, where the staff are trained in how to swim animals in a controlled manner safe for your pet, and where the water is warm and sanitary.
Physiotherapy - a dedicated veterinary physiotherapist can give you exercises to perform at home for your pet to help keep those joints active and maintain muscle.
Winter Hazards For Your Pet
During the winter take care not to walk your dog on ice, as slipping can cause or further increase joint pain and damage. Muddy walks can also put strain on arthritic joints so going for short walks on firm ground is better for arthritic dogs.
There are a few additional things that can be hazardous for pets:
Rock salt - used to defrost pavements and roads, rock salt can cause ulceration to feet if crystals get caught between the toes. A good idea is to gently wash your dog’s feet with warm water when returning from a walk. An alternative would be to use dog ‘booties’ to protect their paws.
Ethylene Glycol - this is a chemical used in some types of anti-freeze, and if swallowed can cause life-threatening damage to the kidneys. We see this most commonly in cats but can also happen to dogs. Ideally do not buy products containing this chemical, or if you do, take care to avoid spillages.
Speak to your Vet if you have any concerns about your pet’s health during the winter months, they will be able to provide tailored advice for you and your pet.