Winter Pet Care Tips

A dog standing in the snow
Winter weather conditions often require us to change the way we manage our pets’ health, safety, and wellbeing. Here are a few tips to keep cats and dogs in paw-some health all winter.
 
Cats
 
Do make water more alluring for your cat this winter. Many cats don’t drink enough water to keep their kidneys happy. Use ice cubes, dripping taps, and kitty fountains to encourage your cat to sip-sip. 
Do keep your cat’s mind and body active using cat trees, window perches, treat puzzles, and a rotating variety of toys. Play and physical activity can help stave off stress-related illnesses and weight gain.
Do calculate your pet’s calorie needs and measure their daily food intake to avoid over- or under-feeding them. Find a great tool for calculating your cat’s daily calorie target at www.petnutritionalliance.org/cat.php.
Do concentrate on coat care. Not only does brushing your cat regularly keep them shiny and help prevent matting, but it also helps you spot skin problems quickly. Grooming your cat can also be a great bonding experience.
 
Don’t let your cat wander! Their warmth-seeking nature might bring them into contact with auto fan belts, predators, and rodent bait.
Don’t use over-the-counter flea killers without consulting your vet. Flea populations peak in the fall, and problems often become apparent when pets spend more time indoors during winter. Many flea products made for use on carpets can contain ingredients that are dangerous for cats.
Don’t allow cats to get near indoor flower arrangements. When the weather gets drab, it’s reasonable to want to bring a little bit of nature indoors. However, many plants and flowers, including lilies, are very toxic to cats.
Don’t ignore changes in urination habits. Changes to urinary amount, frequency, comfort, and location can indicate serious illness, and warrant a visit to the vet.
 
Dogs
 
Do maintain your dog’s regular exercise frequency and intensity…by finding comfortable winter-friendly activities. Explore a variety of indoor and outdoor exercise options like agility classes, treat hide-and-seek, doggy yoga, or even skijoring! 
Do keep nails short and hair well-groomed. Nail injuries are common in icy conditions, and long hair on the feet can hold snow, salt, and ice melters against the skin.
Do offer comfortable raised bedding. Senior dogs especially benefit from beds designed to cushion aching joints and keep them off the floor when it gets cool.
Do check up on calorie intake. Many pets gain weight in the winter. Ask your veterinary team to calculate your dog’s calorie needs, and measure food portions daily. Try the calorie calculator at www.petnutritionalliance.org/dog.php, and visit your favourite pet food brand’s website to find out how many calories are in a serving of your dog’s food.
 
Don’t assume all dogs have the same cold tolerance. Some dogs can play outside for hours in the winter. Others can barely stand a quick bathroom break. Outdoor time should always be supervised.
Don’t let your pet stay outside overnight or when you leave home.
Don’t give too many treats and table scraps. When people spend less time outdoors with their dogs, they sometimes replace that bonding time with treats. This can lead to weight gain.
Don’t let your dog access garages, driveways, sheds, or basements where antifreeze or other chemicals may have been used, stored, or spilled. Clean up messes immediately, and store harmful substances like cleaners, glues, and pesticides up high in secure containers.
Don’t leave your dog unattended near space heaters, fireplaces, or woodstoves. It could lead to burns, fires, and even just dry skin.
 
Written by:
Dr. Jennifer Sperry