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Pet Care Tips for Winter

With the onset of winter, it is important to make sure that your pet stays fit and evades any kind of illness. Read this Buzzle article for some useful pet care tips for the colder months.
Tip for pet care in winter
The sense of smell of dogs is weak during winter. Hence, never take them outdoors without a leash, as they may panic during a snowstorm or thunder, run away, and get lost.

The drop in temperature during winters is never too kind. Like we prepare ourselves for the extreme cold, taking care of our pets during such a weather is equally important. Paying attention to small details will help them fight the harsh conditions without affecting their health.

For Cats and Dogs

Keep Them Indoors
No matter how much your pet loves spending time in your backyard, keeping it outside your house for long during winter should be avoided. Outdoor exercise should be minimized. The temperatures at which your pet is safe outside should be consulted with your veterinarian.

Do Not Shave Their Coat
The thick fur coat on dogs and cats serves as a natural insulator during the colder months. Hence, avoid shaving your pet unless it is absolutely necessary. Also, do not let your pet outdoors immediately after its bath, as chances of catching a cold increase.

Cover Them in Woolens
Finding winter wear for your pet will not be a tough job. Right from sweaters to jackets and mufflers, every need of your pet can be addressed without difficulty nowadays.

Turtleneck coats that run from the top base of the tail and cover the belly are a popular choice among pet owners as they give the much-needed warmth, and are useful when you take your pet outdoors.

Make Slight Changes in Their Diet
Although there is no need for a drastic change in their food intake, try including canola oil, sunflower oil, and protein-rich food in your pet's diet. This helps in keeping its coat healthy and thick during winter. Also, feeding frozen food should be avoided.

It is essential to make sure that your pet does not get dehydrated during this season. Use water bowls made from plastic and not metal, as it keeps the tongue from sticking to the cold metal.

Provide Warm Bedding
It goes without saying that a warm, cozy bedding is a must for harsh winters. Do not allow your pet to sleep on the floor. Beds and bedding materials are easily available at pet stores. Make sure that your pet sleeps on a carpet along with a bed, blanket, and pillow.

For pets living in a cage, such as birds and rabbits, it is advised to cover their cage with warm clothing in order to keep them warm. Here, ensure that the pet gets enough breathing space.

Keep Them Away From Antifreeze
Antifreeze is a chemical solution added to water to lower its freezing point. It is often used in the colder countries to keep vehicles from freezing. This solution is nothing less than a poison for cats and dogs. These animals are attracted to the sweet taste of this liquid that can prove fatal.

So, clean your vehicles without leaving any traces of this additive. Also, to avoid accidental intoxication, doctors suggest using animal-friendly products. And if that is not an option, keep the bottles of antifreeze out of your pet's reach.

Clean Their Paws After Every Outdoor Visit
After returning indoors from rain or snow, be very particular about cleaning your pet's paws and getting rid of any foreign unhygienic particles it is likely to ingest. Paw pads of cats and dogs are sensitive areas and tend to bleed because of the hard snow or ice.

Also, trim their nails and the hair between their toes to avoid snow from getting stuck. If washing their paws every time is proving to be a hassle, consider using boots during their walks.

Pay Special Attention to Mature Pets
Older dogs are prone to health problems such as osteoarthritis and hypothermia. An effective way of helping them through this season is by providing them with heating pads and blankets. Custom-made heating pads are available in the market that help them combat hypothermia and pain due osteoarthritis.

Keep a Lookout for Signs of a Frostbite
The skin of a pet with a frostbite appears whitish-gray to red and can easily peel off. Frostbite occurs to the skin of paws, ears, and the nose. Often, it is difficult to identify frostbites; hence it is advised to clean your pet thoroughly from any traces of snow as often as possible. Also, place your pet near a warm area such as the fireplace, and clean the suspected area with a moist cloth.


For Guinea Pigs and Rabbits

» The first thing to do is relocate their cage to a warm and sheltered area. This is in order to prevent the hutch (cage) from getting cold which can trap the moisture, thus, affecting your pet's health. Also, do not place the hutch on a cold ground. Provide a thick and warm bedding for support.

» If you are keeping them indoors, then ensure that the temperature of the room remains constant as fluctuating temperature conditions can pose a serious health hazard. In case of rabbits, it is recommended not to keep them indoors for long as they tend to shed their winter coat as an immediate reaction to the warmer conditions.

» As with other pets, clean your pets regularly and check for any signs of illness. Provide them with warm winter bedding such as dry hay and straw that is covered with paper. Ensure that their hutch is dust-free and is cleaned regularly, with an easy access to drinking water. Feed them with fresh leafy vegetables and not frozen varieties.

For Horses

» Construct the horse shelter with the open end or the door against the wind. Select a location in the corner of the field but in such a way that the horse does not feel cramped.

» If the coat of the horse is trimmed, it is essential to provide a rug for warmth. Ensure that the rugs are thoroughly cleaned, dry, and waterproof. The rug has to be the size of the horse or the pony, and it should not rub against its skin causing scratches and bruises.

» It is advised that the drinking water for your pet horse should not be stagnant. Hence, if there is no natural stream flowing through the field, construct a free-flowing water supply near the winter shelter.

» Since fresh grass will be tough to provide, feed your horse with hay of the amount that it is used to. Avoid overfeeding as it can lead to illnesses like colic. Make sure that your horse is mud-free in order to prevent mud fever.

» Exercise is a must as excess hard feed will tend to make it lethargic and prone to more health problems. Hence, in order to keep its body warm, it is essential to take it for a walk outdoors.

» Here, before stepping out in the snow, cover its hooves with vegetable oil to prevent the snow from getting stuck in the depressions. After the exercise, wash off the oil and remove any traces of snow.

For Birds

» Although it is advised to keep the bird cage indoors during winter, make sure that it is not placed next to a wood or gas heater. Birds are sensitive to fumes, and inhaling the smoke can cause respiratory problems.

» Arrange for a warm bedding to keep them cozy. Covering the cage with a blanket will also provide the needed warmth. It is important to note here that you must keep a gap for proper ventilation.

These tips will definitely keep your pet off any likely trouble. The winter proves to be a harsh season, especially for the older pets. Underlying medical conditions, if any, worsen during the colder months. Giving the pets enough water, making the necessary changes in their diet, and providing them with shelter from snow can help them fight the harsh weather and maintain overall health.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is purely for informative and educational purposes and does not intend to replace the advice offered by a registered veterinarian.
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Published: November 12, 2013
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