It’s relatively easy for us humans to take care of ourselves in cold weather. We wear warm coats, hats, and gloves; seal up the cracks in our homes against the winter chill; prepare our cars with new tires and fresh antifreeze; and fill our bellies with comfort food and hot cocoa.
Our pets deserve the same considerations when the cold weather descends, and your friends at Paws, Purrs, and Exotics Animal Hospital have outlined the ways in which you can make sure they stay warm and toasty all winter long with winter pet care.
The safest place for pets during winter is indoors, where it’s warm and dry. This is especially true for senior pets, as they aren’t able to regulate their body temperatures as efficiently.
If a pet must be outdoors for a period of time, make sure he or she has access to fresh and unfrozen water, insulated shelter, and warm bedding at all times. Pets should not be outside for extended periods of time when the temperature dips below freezing.
Exercise is important for pets and people, and wintertime is no exception. A bit of outdoor exercise helps to burn off excess energy and keep the winter blues at bay; just make sure your pet is protected before you venture out:
- Skip the short haircuts during colder months (but not the baths), as clean, longer fur can be a better insulator for your pet.
- Providing your pet with added layers in the form of a coat, sweater, or snow boots will help to keep them warm and dry while outdoors.
- Pets can easily lose their scent trails and become lost and disoriented in the snow and ice. Keep dogs leashed at all times, and make sure they are wearing current ID tags and that microchips have been updated as needed.
- If you are cold, so is your pet! Pets can suffer from frostbite and hypothermia just like we can, so keep outings brief and gauge your pet’s comfort level often.
The sweet odor and taste of antifreeze makes it irresistible to many pets, but the main ingredient, ethylene glycol, is a powerful and deadly toxin. Even a small amount can cause deadly kidney failure in pets.
Protect your pets this winter by:
- Cleaning up antifreeze spills immediately
- Storing unused antifreeze out of your pet’s reach
- Supervising pets at all times while outdoors
- Switching to a pet-friendly brand of antifreeze
The ice melt (rock salt) that is commonly used to keep streets and sidewalks free of ice often contains chemicals that can irritate paws and even sicken pets if ingested. Protect your pet by washing and drying his or her paws, legs, and underbelly after coming indoors, and by providing boots or anti-slip socks while outdoors.
Winter Pet Care For Exotics
Many small and exotic pets, birds and reptiles in particular, are not acclimated to colder climates, and special care needs to be taken to ensure that they stay healthy during wintertime:
- Provide heat – When their body temperatures drop, many exotic pets may stop eating or experience a lowered immunity to infections. If your home isn’t adequately warm for an exotic pet, be sure to provide extra heat by wrapping the cage with a towel or blanket, providing warm water bottles or heating pads, using extra lighting, or by placing the enclosure near a sunny window (make sure there are no drafts coming through).
- Extra food and water – Small and exotic pets often burn extra calories to stay warm in cooler temperatures, so provide plenty of your pet’s favorite types of foods to encourage a good appetite. Make sure your pet has fresh water daily to keep hydrated. Monitor your exotic pet’s food and water intake and don’t hesitate to give us a call if you notice a problem.
- In case of emergency – Have a plan in place to care for your exotic pet if there is a power outage, whether that is an external heat and light source, or an alternate location, such as a friend or family member’s home, where your pet can safely wait until power is restored.
If you have any questions or concerns about winter pet care, please don’t hesitate to contact your team at Paws, Purrs, and Exotics Animal Hospital.