Cold Weather Checklist For Pets Will Keep Them Warm7 min read
COLD WEATHER CHECKLIST FOR PETS MAKES SENSE
September and October are some of the most beautiful times of the year up north. Down here in South Florida it is akin to the climate seen in the Panamanian jungle. Enjoy the cooler weather but keep your eyes on the calendar. Cooler weather leads quickly to November so it is prudent to prepare a cold weather checklist for pets. You get your automobile ready for winter so why not your pets? The important thing is that you have time to get things right. When I used to live up north I always tested the heating system in September to make sure it worked. The last thing you want is a broken furnace when the first blast of cold weather arrives the end of October.
FALL IS PEAK FLEA SEASON
People living in warm, southern states have to deal with fleas and mosquitoes year round. In northern climes cooler weather invites peak flea season. Insects need to survive and they will hitch a ride on your dog or cat the minute cooler weather arrives. When your pets come back inside the fleas jump off and lay their eggs in your home. You suddenly have an indoor flea problem. I would see fleas on pets in Ohio during the coldest of days. People always wondered how that could happen when it was so cold outside. The answer was obvious that the pet owner was providing a nice cozy, warm environment for fleas to reproduce starting in early to middle September.
A cold weather checklist for pets includes ridding fleas from the environment and the pets before cold weather arrives. Now a days there are countless topical or oral flea kill preparations available at veterinary offices. Revolution®, Comfortis® and Frontline® are good examples of products that do the job. There are environmental products that can eliminate fleas from the home plus foggers and sprays that will take care of the home. Learn more about flea and tick control and make your home flea free over the winter!
A NICE, CLEAN HAIR-COAT FOR THE WINTER
Time flies. It seems just a couple of months ago that I was writing about getting your pet’s hair-coat ready for summer. Getting it ready for winter is basically the reverse yet both share common ground. Summer is a hot time for pets. Many people wisely shave down their animals ridding them of a long thick hair-coat that makes hot weather feel even worse for pets. Plus there is the added bonus of not having to spend time grooming the animal. After an animal is shaved down do not repeat it that summer. It takes time for an animal’s hair to grow out. You want a thick hair-coat to be ready come mid October.
A thick hair-coat is like wearing a jacket during cold weather. It helps insulate and, up to a point, helps to keep a dog or cat warm when temporarily outdoors. As the hair-coat thickens it is important to comb it out daily. This helps to layer the hairs so that they trap warm air around them keeping the pet warmer. Matted hair does not insulate the pet whatsoever.
One of the major problems during cooler weather is when the heat is first turned on. Wood stoves and furnaces keep you warm but they also dry out the environment. The relative humidity in cooler and cold weather combined with heat supplementation will dry out a pet’s skin. This leads to dry, flaky skin. This is known as dandruff. When this worsens it will turn into seborrhea sicca. This will make your dog or cat scratch like it has fleas. To prevent this start applying now about a teaspoon of safflower oil or olive oil over your pet’s food. In several months your pet’s coat will be more lustrous without that dry skin. If you want an over the counter product try Linatone®. It contains essential fatty acids for healthy skin. Your pet’s skin and hair-coat will also improve when you feed it a high quality diet such as Hills® or Royal Canin®.
A cold weather checklist for pets should also include taking care of pets that spend time outdoors during winter. Make sure that a dog house is draft free and elevated off the ground. I used to take care of honey bees in Ohio and I had the opening of the hive face the southeast. Do the same thing with your dog house. The southeast opening will get the first rays of the sun in the morning warming your pet plus block northwest winds coming from the opposite direction. Dogs can’t drink water if it is frozen so make sure that your electric warming water dish does its job by testing it this month. Outdoor animals will need extra calories so plan on stocking up on some extra dog food.
September and October are always times of the year when veterinarians see dogs that have ingested liquid antifreeze. A big part of that cold weather checklist for pets is getting rid of any old or leftover antifreeze. Prepare your car for cold winter weather but keep antifreeze away from pets and young children. Just taking one lick of antifreeze will send any dog into acute renal (kidney) failure.
HEALTH CARE NEEDS
People with older pets need to take extra precautions this time of year. A cold weather checklist for pets should include a complete physical at a veterinarian’s office. Cold, damp weather is stressful for senior citizen pets. An older animal may be able to ambulate adequately during warm summer weather but start suffering the debilitating signs of arthritis when it gets colder outside. A physical exam during early fall may include radiographs of your pet’s hips. Diagnosing arthritis early will make it much easier to treat. Putting dogs or cats on Dasuquin® (glucosamine\chondroitin\MSM) will regenerate cartilage making it easier for your pet to navigate without pain during colder weather. If your pet is feeling discomfort due to early arthritis most veterinarians will suggest a trial dose of Rimadyl®, one of the best non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents on the market. It is a prescription only drug and liver enzymes must be checked every 4-6 months.
During that physical exam it is important that blood be drawn to check the functioning of vital organs. Most veterinarians refer to this as a “senior profile”. These biochemical profiles are worth their weight in gold and can diagnose many senior problems before the pet develops clinical signs. Early detection leads to earlier and more successful treatment. As they say an ounce of prevention…. Many dogs are diagnosed with hypothyroidism at this time. Feline senior profiles often pick up hyperthyroidism. They are direct opposites of one another yet can affect a pet’s quality of life during winter.
Make sure that all the pet’s vaccinations are up to date. Parvovirus is extremely dangerous year round in dogs. While you are at it have your veterinarian inject a microchip and attach a collar (breakaway for cats) with your phone number embedded in it. Layers of snow and ice can trick a dog. The smells it uses to navigate home, if lost, are masked by snow so it is easy for the animal to get lost.