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Caring for Your Canine or Feline Companion During Winter

Caring for Your Canine or Feline Companion During Winter (1)

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As the winter season sets in, it becomes paramount to attune oneself to the needs of one’s canine or feline companion, avoiding the misconception of overestimating their resistance to the cold. Despite their generally superior resilience to dropping temperatures compared to humans, certain precautions are in order.

Considerations: Age, Health, and Coat Type

While dogs and cats, in general, endure the cold more robustly than humans, variables such as age, health condition (including illness, convalescence, or muscular discomfort such as arthritis), physiology (for instance, a pregnant or nursing female), and even their breed or type play a significant role. Some may be more susceptible and delicate than others.

Factors like size and weight also come into play; smaller dogs and lean canines may be more susceptible to the chill, while obesity doesn’t confer additional resistance. The same principles apply to cats.

The nature of their fur, whether possessing an undercoat or not, further distinguishes their cold tolerance. Long-haired pets with a thick undercoat experience less discomfort in the cold compared to short-haired or hairless breeds.

Lifestyle Considerations

The lifestyle of the pet also impacts its resilience to temperature drops and winter weather. Robust dogs accustomed to living in a well-insulated outdoor kennel, shielded from wind and drafts, can persist in this arrangement during winter. However, many dogs now cohabit with their owners indoors, often in environments that are, at times, overheated.

For such dogs, the shift in temperature during outings can be more pronounced. Dry cold is better tolerated by animals than damp cold, making a coat a sensible precaution to prevent the underside from getting wet during walks. Paws should be wiped and dried after returning, especially if the dog has walked in snow. Regular checks on paw pads are essential, ridding them of ice and snow and washing away de-icing salt, which is not only irritating but also toxic.

Paw Care Routine

Maintaining the paw pads involves checking for foreign objects like small stones and trimming the hair between the toes. If the dog resides in a snowy area, a tannin-based solution from the vet can be applied to prevent cracks and fissures. Vaseline or a specialized product, available in clinics (consulting the ASV, veterinary specialized assistant, is recommended), can also be applied to the nose and ear tips.

For dogs fond of frolicking in the snow, precautions must be taken to prevent ingestion, which can lead to gastric disturbances such as diarrhea and vomiting.

Beware of Winter Blues and Weight Gain

Winter not only brings a drop in temperature but also shorter days. However, this doesn’t warrant depriving the dog of the need to expend energy, crucial for both physical and “psychological” well-being.

Restricting winter outings to just fulfilling bodily needs risks triggering a bout of the blues in your dog. Hence, maintaining the usual rhythm is vital. A reflective leash and/or collar can enhance safety during night walks.

Cats, too, should be allowed to maintain their routines and manage outdoor excursions if customary throughout the rest of the year.

Weight gain due to reduced exercise is a winter consequence that affects both dogs and cats with curtailed outdoor activities.

Adapt the Diet and Prioritize Warm-Up Before Activity

In terms of nutrition, consulting the vet for advice on the diet of outdoor-living dogs or those engaged in canine activities is prudent. Unlike indoor dogs whose dietary regimen remains unchanged throughout the year, outdoor and active dogs may require an increased daily ration (up to an average of 30%, depending on the dog).

Sporting dogs, in particular, necessitate a warm-up before exertion to prevent the risk of strains, sprains, cruciate ligament ruptures, and other muscular issues.

Rain Aversion!

A few raindrops, and some dogs refuse to venture outdoors. They barely poke their noses outside before making an about-turn.

Nevertheless, outdoor excursions, even just for necessities, remain indispensable. In this scenario, it falls upon the owner to exercise a bit more force on the leash!

Some dogs seem to grasp this concept well: the quicker they attend to their business, the faster they return! A helpful tip is to use a large umbrella to provide the master and the dog with optimal shelter.

mahatma gandhi portrait

- Mahatma Gandhi

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”