December has brought an icy chill and winter is here to stay. While some of our canine companions love to play in the snow, others have a lot of trouble braving the cold.
Here are a few tips to help make the weather a bit more bearable for those reluctant canines.
Consider a coat — they are more than a fashion statement. That winter wear can really help your furry friend, especially if he has a very short coat.
Those double-coated dogs often have an easier time handling the weather, but remember that in the really extreme weather, even that thick coat may not be enough to keep the chill out.
Senior animals, or very young puppies and kittens, are not well equipped to handle extreme cold temperatures. Special consideration should also be given to animals that are in poor health, as their tolerance to the weather is often depleted. These animals might need a little extra warmth in the winter months.
Pet beds, cushions and blankets get a lot of mileage this time of year. For pets that need a little extra TLC in the winter months, consider a heated pet bed and mats. These are designed to provide some added warmth and both dogs and cats truly enjoy them. They are available at most of our local pet retail stores, such as Pet Valu and A Pet Lover’s Warehouse.
Keeping your pet’s fur trimmed between his toes can prevent the ice and snow from building up there. When ice and snow sticks to your pet’s warm paws, it can quickly form lumps of ice that can cause great discomfort and even pain when walking.
Pet boots can provide added paw protection — if you have a dog that is willing to wear them. If your dog is not a fan of fancy foot gear, there is a wonderful product called Musher’s Secret, which is a Canadian-made barrier wax designed for sled dogs. It works very well to protect paws from the elements.
An alternative to barrier wax can be to simply place a small amount of petroleum jelly between your pet’s toes before heading out for a walk. This can prevent ice and snow from sticking to the paws, and is also useful in preventing salt from sticking to your pet’s feet.
Rock salt used on the streets is dangerous if ingested and pets may suffer the toxic effects of salt from licking their paws after a walk. Salts and chemicals used to melt ice can dry out and irritate your pet’s feet — and they can be very painful if your pet has cuts or scrapes on his paws.
If your pet does not wear boots or use a protective barrier wax, it is a good idea to wash your pet’s feet after a long walk in the winter streets.
While indoor pets have shelter from the cold, remember that outside pets are constantly affected by the elements. It is critical that they have adequate shelter.
Shelters should be insulated to provide warmth and designed to shield from wind on all sides. Straw serves as a good insulator for outside pet shelters, but it does not add much warmth. Consider purchasing heated pads designed to add warmth and comfort for pets living outdoors.
Many places also carry heated water bowls that prevent water from turning to ice when the temperature drops. Eating snow can chill the body and does not help keep your pet warm. Providing access to fresh water can greatly assist in helping your pet maintain his body temperature.
Pets that live outside also burn more calories in the winter months and need an increase in food intake to properly handle the cold weather.
Most house cats are quite happy to watch us shovel the snow from a warm spot in the window sill. Cats that are allowed outside tend to shy away from the front door in the winter.
Outdoor cats are often very innovative when it comes to finding places to crawl into and keep warm.
In the cold, cats will sometimes curl up under the hood of a recently run car to enjoy the warmth of the engine. While this provides much needed warmth, this trick has cost many outside cats their lives when the vehicle starts up the next morning.
Be sure to slam your door or bang on the hood of your vehicle before turning the key as a warning to any sleeping cats.
Winter weather isn’t all bad — there are a lot of fun ways to enjoy the snow.
And for those of us who would much rather stay indoors, there’s really nothing like curling up with your pet and a good book in front of the fireplace.
Dana Grove is an animal lover who works with several pet organizations in Brandon.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 12, 2013