While most of us in the south have experienced (reasonably) cold winters, this year has caught just about everyone off guard.
And there are still almost two months of this unpredictable weather! Many pet owners in the south aren't prepared for the extreme conditions or getting their fur-babies properly protected. Here are a few tips we've put together to help you make sure they're safe and warm this winter, thanks to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Those Achy Bones - Schedule That Annual Exam
Just like the cold weather aggravates certain medical conditions in people (such as arthritis, your immune system), it can in your pet as well. Winter is a perfect time to get your pet's annual exam to make sure (s)he is prepared and heads into spring with - what else - a spring in their step!
We Love Their Fur But…
We admire our pet's silky, plush coat but don't fall for its beauty! Your pet's fur provides warmth to an extent in extremely cold conditions. Remember, 32 degrees and below is freezing, and domestic, indoor pets are just as susceptible to those freezing conditions as we are. No matter how furry! Their paws, tails, and ears are all vulnerable and could even get frostbite. Take your dog for walks, exercise, and play, but when temperatures drop, don't leave your fur-buddy outside for long periods of time. Pay attention when they are outside for signs of being cold - shivering, seems anxious, looking for warm places to burrow - and bring them inside to warm up immediately.
Go Ahead, Dress 'Em Up!
There are those who like to dress up and those who don't dress up their pets. But in severe winter conditions, putting a coat or sweater on your fur-baby, or even those booties that make them walk funny will genuinely help protect them. Especially those with short-haired fur. Just make sure the clothes are dry when you put them on. Wet coats or booties, or damp sweaters could actually make your pet colder.
TIP: A good coat/sweater should reach from the neck to the base of the tail, and protect the belly.
Winter Pedis For Your Pet
No…it's not about painting their nails. Just as our skin gets dry and cracks in winter, so do your dog's paws. There are a number of moisturizers and balms designed to keep your pet's pads soft, and here's a great DIY recipe to make your own. If they have furry feet, trim the hair that grows between the pads to prevent ice build-up. Make sure you also wipe their feet after taking them for a walk in the neighborhood. They could pick up toxins such as antifreeze or salt (to melt the ice), and you don't want him/her licking it off. Again, you could put dog booties on them to help keep their paws cleaner on walks.
Specifically, For Cats
Ok, so if you have an outdoor cat that either cannot or will not transition to the indoors in severely cold weather, make sure they have a small warm area to go for protection. Place a box or crate (without holes) in a sheltered location away from the wind - possibly the garage or a closed-in shed. Line it with a few warm blankets or a cat bed. Just remember, if the sleeping area is too large it will not provide proper insulation to keep your cat warm, and frostbite on tails or tips of ears could occur. Also, make sure they're well-fed and have fresh (unfrozen!) water at all times.
Be sure to keep these tips, and others, in mind to get your pets safely through the winter, and enjoy all the fun stuff winter has to offer - hot chocolate, comfy blankets, and those cozy cuddles with your fur-babies!