Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How to Protect Your Pet During the Winter

Well, Halloween is over and the clocks have been set back. You know what comes next...WINTER! It's time to think about preparing your pet for the cold, winter months. If your dog or cat spends a lot of time outside, make sure they have an insulated shelter to get in out of the cold. Even then, they should be allowed inside off and on throughout the day. Evenings get especially cold, the temperature dropping by 20 degrees or more. Bring your pet inside on winter nights.

Even if you have a long-haired pet, like a collie, a sheltie, or a Maine Coon cat, the weather affects them in the same way it does humans. They can suffer from hypothermia just as you do. Some dogs like Alaskan Malamutes or Siberian Huskies are better suited to the cold. They have insulated coats that protects them from blowing snow and wind, but if you own one of these dogs and they are not used to the cold, they can still suffer in the freezing weather. Make sure you insulate the dog house, garage, or wherever your pet sleeps with blankets, pillows, or bedding filled with wood shavings. Pet stores also carry heated pads that can be placed under the dog house or bedding. If your pet is a chewer, this is not an option, however.

Water is another issue during the winter months. An insulated dog house will not keep water from freezing. You will have to bring your pet indoors frequently for water. Dog houses and garages are only recommended for daylight hours. I can't emphasize enough that pets should be brought inside at night.

When walking your dog in frigid weather, snow, and ice, use some type of booties to protect the dog's paws from ice chips, freezing walkways, and salted roads. Road salt will dry out the pads of your pet's paws, causing cracking, and bleeding. You can make pet booties yourself with a woolen or felt fabric or knit the dog booties yourself. It may seem strange at first, seeing your dog in booties, but the added protection will prevent frostbite, cuts, and infection.

Small dogs, cats, and short-haired pets should also wear jackets or sweaters. Water proof dog and cat jackets are best, but any covering is better than no protection. Knitted wool sweaters are very warm and are ideal protection from the wet and cold. Just don't put wool sweaters in the clothes dryer or they will shrink to a tiny size. Wool sweaters need to be air dried. There are many free knitted dog sweater and cat sweater patterns online, so if you know how to knit, this is a great way to build up your pet's winter outerwear. It's fun choosing all the different colored yarns and knitting your pet a cozy sweater. Create matching pet booties, as well.

Another thing to keep in mind during the cold weather, especially if your pet is staying in a garage, is anti-freeze. Anti-Freeze is extremely toxic to humans, pets, and other wildlife. Animals will drink anti-freeze, being attracted by its sweet taste. If your pet drinks a puddle of anti-freeze, go to the vet immediately. It will cause death. Double check your driveway and garage for anti-freeze that may have leaked out of your vehicle or a vehicle that was parked in your driveway. Protect your pet and any other wildlife like squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks, and birds that are looking for water in the winter.

Dry, cold, or heated air is also a problem for some pets, causing dry skin, itching, and hot spots. Add a little extra fat to your pet's food in the winter. You can do this by using a tablespoon or two of olive oil, fatty acid supplements you can buy at the pet store, or the extra fat cut off of meat. The added fat gives a nice shine to your pet's coat and prevents dandruff. Your pet will love the extra fatty oils too.

Hope these tips help both you and your pet stay cozy and warm all winter.

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