Winter is here! And exposure to winter’s dry, cold air can cause issues for your pet such as itchy, flaking skin, dry respiratory tracts and eyes, as well as chapped paws. To help prevent cold weather dangers from affecting your dog or cat's health, here are five tips for winter pet health.
1. Bathe Your Pets Less Frequently
Bathe your pets as little as possible during colder months. Washing too often can remove protective oils from your pets’ skin and increase the chance of developing dry, flaky skin. If your pooch has managed to get stinky, ask your veterinarian to recommend a moisturizing shampoo and creme. Additionally, do not shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. If your dog is long-haired, simply trim him to minimize clinging ice balls and outdoor chemicals that can dry his skin. Also, don’t forget about the hair between his toes. If your dog is short-haired or has a thin coat, consider getting him a warm sweater with coverage from the neck to the base of the tail and around to the belly to wear outside in the cold.
2. Always Dry Your Pet's Paws
After each walk, use a washcloth or wet wipe to wash and dry your pet’s feet and stomach to remove ice, salt and chemicals—paying special attention to the areas between foot pads for snow/ice balls. You should also check daily for cracks in paw pads or redness between the toes. Massaging coconut oil or other paw protectants into paw pads before going outside can also help protect from road salt and other chemical agents. Another winter weather option are pet booties. Pet booties or shoes provide even better coverage, but can take a little getting used to in the beginning.
3. Adjust Their Feeding Amounts
Outdoor pets burn extra energy by trying to stay warm in wintertime. Feeding them
a little bit more during the cold weather months can provide much-needed calories. You should also ensure that outdoor pets have plenty of non-frozen water to drink in order to help keep them well-hydrated. For indoor pets that are not getting as much outdoor activity, you may actually have to feed less than you normally do so they don’t pack on that winter fat layer.
4. Bring Your Pets Indoors If Possible
Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from drafty areas. A cozy dog or cat bed with a snuggly blanket to burrow in is perfect. Remember, if it’s too cold for you outside, it’s probably too cold for your pets. Many areas have ordinances about pets left outdoors because pets can freeze, become disoriented, lost/stolen, and even injured or killed in very cold weather. Never leave pets alone in a car during colder months, as cars can hold in the cold and cause animals to quickly become hypothermic.
5. Use Pet-Friendly Products
Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Always monitor pets closely when walking to ensure they’re not exposed to these products, and be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle. Use pet friendly ice melts whenever possible and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.