Date updated: 07 05 2019
When our four-legged friends are warm, cosy and content, staying in healthy and safe becomes a lot easier. Here’s how to look after your buddy when the temperature starts to drop…
Know your buddy’s needs…
Some of us are built to handle the cold better than others. So how much you’ll need to change your buddy’s routine to take into account the cold weather will depend a lot on their specific breed type.
Take a Labrador Retriever, for instance: these guys were originally bred to work in cold Canadian waters - hence the thick, waterproof coat. So you shouldn’t need to change up your exercise and care routine too much, just because it’s a little chillier than normal. The same goes for the likes of Newfoundlands, Akitas, Huskies and German Shepherds.
Things are different for short-haired and hairless dogs, including many toy breeds, bull breeds, Greyhounds and Dobermans. Without a thick layer of insulation, they’re going to find it a lot harder to maintain the right body temperature.
The age of your pet is another factor to consider. Pups and kittens can be especially susceptible to the cold, while for older dogs and cats a drop in temperature can make pre-existing health issues such as arthritis and joint pain worse.
Your vet should be fully up to speed with your buddy’s circumstances and specific needs. That’s why it’s worth checking what changes you should make as winter approaches. They should be able to give you specific advice on the following:
For long-haired breeds of cat and dog, the advice is usually to avoid trimming and shaving as often during the winter, so they don’t miss out on that natural layer of insulation.
That said, don’t cut back on the brushing and combing. As well as being a cause of irritation, matted hair is less effective at providing a barrier against cold snow and rain, so be sure to brush out any mats and tangles.
A cosy night’s sleep
Make sure your buddy isn’t sleeping in a draught, and consider lining their bed with an extra layer of blankets. This is especially important if the bed is positioned directly on the floor. A wet bed is never warm, so make sure you change and clean the bedding regularly.
If it’s an older dog or cat who’s not as sprightly as they once were, it’s always worth asking your vet whether a heated bed might be a good idea.
Time for a winter coat?
Not all dogs need a jacket, but it’s often recommended for short-haired breeds, smaller animals and old or sick dogs. And when it’s wet outside, it’s always useful to have a waterproof layer to put on top - but just make sure it’s made of breathable fabric.
And don’t forget the booties! These aren’t just a fashion statement; they provide a vital barrier against the cold ground. They’re even more important when the gritters have been out as salt can be an irritant to paws.
The problem with booties though, is convincing your buddy that wearing them is a good idea. If you’re faced with a stubborn pooch, some positive reinforcement might be needed: start by fitting one boot, feeding your dog a treat before removing the boot. Later on, repeat the process, but with both this time, until your dog realises that wearing them is a positive thing.
Winter nights out for your cat…
When the first winter snow arrives, your outdoors cat will be itching to get out and explore. While they get used to it, let them out in the garden with you watching. If they have water outside, make sure it doesn’t freeze over so they always have something to drink.
Winter brings added risks for cats that roam. For one, they are more likely to nestle under car tyres for warmth - so always check under your car before heading off anywhere. They are also more likely to explore sheds and outbuildings and even semi-frozen ponds, increasing the likelihood of getting stuck. Taking into account these risks, you might think it’s best to take a ‘cruel to be kind’ approach and keep them in until the cold weather passes.
If you do let your cat out, take extra care to wipe off any grit, salt and other substances that can cause fur to matt when they return.
Unless your vet advises otherwise, you shouldn’t give up exercise for the winter; it helps to keep energy levels up and keep our buddies healthy through the season.
Especially for smaller dogs, a little-and-often approach can often works best in winter. Several short walks mean that your buddy gets the work-out they need but without being outdoors so long that the cold starts to affect them. Jacket or not, if a dog starts shivering, it’s time to come home.
Winter can be a busy time for us humans. But of course, it’s important to keep up the good work in terms of looking after your pet, including keeping on top of check-ups and vaccinations and making sure they don’t overdo it on the treats front.