Top 10 tips to keep your pets happy and comfortable this winter
Get active! As winter sets in, it's tempting to cuddle up indoors with your pets, but in actual fact, it's better for your pet (and you!) to get moving. This is especially important for pets with arthritis as a regular program of gentle exercise during the colder months can actually help with joint health and mobility. Even playing indoors with toys, such as the interactives from the KRAMAR range will help get the heart pumping.
Seek the heat! Cold nights can make the burden of arthritis just that little bit heavier, and you may find that your pet will seek out the warmest place in the house to keep comfortable. Keeping your pet warm with a nice warm coat, adding a few extra blankets to your pet's bed for padding and warmth and ensuring your pet's bed is raised off the ground in a draught-free location will assist in getting your furry friend through the cooler parts of the year in comfort.
Get rugged up! There's a wide variety of winter pet-wear available these days. PURINA WAGWEAR is designed to keep you dog warm and comfortable. Depending on where you live and your dog's breed and age, their winter warmers might range from a light raincoat right up to a fleecy coat.
Get checked! Just like us, pets are susceptible to the sniffles. Make sure your pet has a regular check up with your vet and gets any necessary medication for illnesses and ailments e.g. arthritis, that are likely to get worse over winter.
Be aware! Pets will seek out the warmest part of the house, and this means keeping a close eye on your heaters. Open fires can be a hazard for pet's getting too close - your pets' coats are at risk with getting singed from sitting a little too close! Heaters can be easily knocked over by a boisterous puppy or a curious cat, so please be aware.
Feed me! During winter, our food intake increases as we burn more calories to keep warm. The same thing happens to our pets, so if your puppy or kitten is especially energetic or active he or she may benefit from a small increase in their daily portion of food. However, don't over indulge in the treats. An extra winter dessert sounds great for us, but won't be good for your pet.
Watch the water! This is particularly important for people living in areas experiencing extreme weather conditions. Ensure your pet has an adequate supply of water and, if you live in a very cold area, that it has not frozen therefore becoming inaccessible.
Flea frenzy! Pets need to be treated for fleas all year round, as a heated home provides a breeding ground for these pesky insects. The winter chill does not guarantee flea protection, so treat them every month to ensure they remain protected year round.
Hide and seek! Pets tend to cram themselves into the smallest nooks and crannies to escape the cold, and a favourite hiding spot is underneath a car close to a warm engine. Keep an eye out for roaming neighbourhood pets around your vehicle, and keep watch on your pets when they venture outside.
Love me! Even pets can get depressed in winter, so keep them happy with plenty of love and cuddles, and give them some extra attention if their mood drops.
Question: Is it fair to give dogs hair cuts in winter? Or is it just too cold for them?
Joanne Righetti: If you live in a very cold climate, it may be sensible to give your dog a haircut in autumn, rather than wait for the colder, winter days. If you forget, however, and winter arrives before you know it, you can still get your dog clipped but perhaps give them an extra blanket when sleeping and a Purina Wagwear stylish and practical coat when out walking. This is sure to keep those chills at bay.
Question: What are the most common problems dogs and cats experience in Winter?
Joanne Righetti: Many dogs and cats who suffer from arthritis may find themselves a little stiffer in winter and some pets, just like humans, feel a little lethargic and may even put on a little weight. When the weather is very cold and wet some pets decide, much to their owner's dismay, that they would rather toilet indoors!
Question: What are the symptoms for pet arthritis?
Joanne Righetti: Pets with arthritis may appear lethargic or have pain on walking or moving. Dogs may be reluctant to go on their daily walks. Animals, however, are adept at hiding pain and so you may not notice until their arthritis is severe so always remember to have an annual vet check, if not more often (especially if your pet is ageing).
Question: Reader Question: How can I stop my dog weeing inside the house, because he stays inside during the colder months?
Joanne Righetti: Five tips for inappropriate elimination:
Check that winter weather is the reason for inappropriate toileting around the home. While this will be the case most times, it could also be an underlying urinary tract problem or even anxiety so best have a vet check.
Long term solution is to retrain your dog to toilet outdoors so go out with your dog after every rest, sleep, meal and play session or every 30 minutes. Praise your dog when he toilets in your preferred location.
Short term, owners may like to provide an appropriate indoor spot for toileting such as a Pet Loo (commercially available or homemade with a grassed box), pee pads or newspaper in the area the dog is likely to toilet.
Clean up "accidents" thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner and try feeding or playing with your dog in the toileting spot - dogs are unlikely to toilet where they eat or live.
Never tell your pet off for toileting inappropriately as this may increase this unwanted behaviour or have your pet doing it when you are not looking. Instead think of it as your mistake and take your dog outside more often or provide more litter boxes for your cat.
Question: How can owners prevent their pets from the winter flu?
Joanne Righetti: Make sure that pets have regular check ups and vaccinations at the veterinary clinic.
Question: Do you have pets, if so what are they?
Joanne Righetti: I have a mixed breed dog, Chilli who is very energetic! I also have 4 cats (one of which is now 19 years old and a little arthritic) and I also have 2 ferrets (the only pets who can catch our human colds!). My pets definitely know the warmest spots around our home in winter and quite often it is my bed!!
Question: How can pet owners keep their companion active throughout winter?
Joanne Righetti: Usually our pets, especially our dogs' enthusiasm for walks continues no matter what the weather but if your dog or cat are a little unwilling to exercise, then you have to make it fun for them. Your enthusiasm for games and interactive activities will rub off on them. Try some of the Kramar interactive range of toys to get your pet moving. Have them retrieve a toy or hide a toy and let your pet find it.
Question: How can you keep your cats mood up in the cooler months?
Joanne Righetti: Cats just love to find a warm spot and snooze the day away in winter but it can be good to entice them into a little activity. Try hiding their food around your home or backyard. Play some interactive chasing games with cat toys or try a game of hide and seek, where you hide and your cat has to find you.
Question: Can animals suffer from hypothermia and frostbite?
Joanne Righetti: Animals can suffer from frostbite and hypothermia if left outdoors in very cold temperatures. Paws can be painful when walking on cold, icy ground! Fortunately in Australia this is less likely to happen but if you live in a very cold area and your pet is an outdoor one, you do need to ensure you provide shelter from the elements or better still, bring your pet indoors to a heated and draft-free location.
Question: Is it still important to let our pets outside, even when it's freezing in winter?
Joanne Righetti: There is no need for cats to be outdoors at all and in fact many cats live happy, healthy and long lives indoors. Dogs, however, do enjoy their daily walks and will probably be the ones encouraging their humans to stay active over winter. It is important if your pet is indoors for long periods of time that you provide many engaging, fun activities for them to keep them occupied. Keep your dog warm while walking with a Wagwear coat.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
For further information please go to the Purina website: www.purinacom.au. The Purina website allows you to seek advice from the Purina Pet Care centre, or join the free Puppy and Kitten club.