Preparing your pets for possible winter problems could save their lives in many cases. I spent the past 15 years working in the veterinary medicine industry as a veterinary assistant and then the bulk of my career was spent managing veterinary hospitals as a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager. Throughout my career, I saw many injuries and sad instances of pets that were injured from very preventable situations. I am sharing my tips for keeping your pets safe this winter and holiday season. I am not a veterinarian and I am not providing any medical advice. If you are worried about your pet’s condition or overall health please call your veterinarian to make an appointment today! It is way cheaper to treat conditions earlier than later.
Keep Your Pets On Their Monthly Preventatives
Indoor pets still need their monthly preventative medications during the winter. Preventatives are the medications that are given to prevent parasites and disease. Some common examples of preventatives I am talking about are heartworm and flea-prevention medication. While the winter is different in terms of the life cycle of fleas and mosquitos, it is still important to maintain a regular dosing schedule for these medications. Especially for heartworm prevention. Heartworm is transmitted to pets through the bite (not really a bite but you get what I mean) of the mosquito. The heartworm prevention medication, when given on the prescribed schedule, will help protect your pet from a deadly heartworm infection. This disease is extremely expensive to treat and is very life-threatening. We have had a few cold snaps here in SouthTexas, but in between those cold snaps we had a few warm days, and the mosquitos were back! They are still a threat.
Pets Should Be Vaccinated Regularly-Even In Winter
Indoor pets still go outside…to exercise and to potty, so they should be kept current on their vaccines. This does go along with the same philosophy of the monthly preventatives. There are some diseases that can survive harsh environments for YEARS outside. Keeping your pets on their regular vaccine schedules can prevent some devastating diseases that are totally preventable. Parvo is an example of a preventable disease that can survive in the yard outside and pass to unvaccinated dogs. Dogs that walk around yards to go potty or to get exercise can be exposed to this disease and become very ill. I am not here to start a debate about vaccines; I am simply sharing what I spent my career assisting in and regularly seeing, lots of these situations were heart-wrenching to watch. The pets suffered, and the owners were devastated and heartbroken.
Fresh Water Is A Must!
Keeping fresh water available for your pets is critical during the winter. My husband is a retired Marine, and he is CONSTANTLY reminding me to “stay hydrated.” He spent his 20-year career having that drilled into his head. He was taught that when it is cold and when you are cold you work harder to keep your body warm, but you don’t necessarily feel thirsty. It’s easy to get dehydrated during the winter. The air is also drier during colder months and heaters are on so that makes it even harder to stay hydrated. Our pets are not the exception. Offering fresh water to our pets will help prevent dehydration.
Pets Need Exercise During The Winter
We all need regular exercise for better health. It is REALLY hard to be motivated to exercise during the colder months. I am hard to motivate during perfect weather and winter months are even more challenging. Our pets will need regular exercise too. The lack of regular exercise could cause a little weight gain as well as a decrease in overall health. One of the big impacts on my pugs when they don’t exercise is that their bathroom schedules get thrown off… they will have (poop) accidents.
Pause To Check Paws
Pets living in harsher climates have even more health considerations during winter months. Snow and ice can be very rough on paws. The use of salt on the ground is even more harmful to pets tootsies. Please be mindful of your pets’ paws. If you walk them outside, consider booties or baggies tied (not too tight) to their feet. Watch for signs of frostbite or injury. Consider what our feet would feel like walking outside on snow and ice, or really cold frosty concrete. Please don’t put Vaseline on their feet, they will lick it off, and it isn’t good for them at all.
Talk about Toxins
The holiday season brings so many great things into our homes that we just don’t see the rest of the year. We get beautiful Christmas trees with twinkling lights, we get packages with bright, beautiful paper and bows, and we get lots of goodies to eat and share. All of these wonders of the season are toxic to our pets. Be extra careful with your pets when they are around these potential threats. Christmas trees must be kept in water if they are fresh. The water in the pan can be harmful to pets if swallowed. The earlier comments about dehydration and needing more water is very true and pets will look for water wherever they can.
Poinsettias are another traditional holiday plant that is very toxic to pets. Please keep your pets away from Poinsettias. Don’t trust your animal to leave it alone either, its’ just not worth the risk.
Candies, Cookies, and Nuts, oh my. If you are anything like our household, the amount of Christmas snacks and treats can get a little out of hand. Thankfully our pets stay out of stuff for the most part. We do have a cat named Guinness that will try to get stuff if we aren’t careful. He is especially fond of poultry. Be sure to put away all candies, snacks, leftovers, etc. to prevent any unintended snacking…by the pets…anyway. Chocolate can be very toxic to pets so if your pet gets into chocolate it is important to get them seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Off to Grandmother’s House We Go…well maybe not ALL OF US.
If you are planning on traveling this holiday season and can’t take your pets, you can hire private petsitters or arrange to have your pet boarded at your local veterinary office. If you aren’t sure if your vet offers pet boarding, give them a call. You can reserve your spot today and not have to worry about who is watching the dog and cat while you are gone. Veterinary offices have their trained staff caring for your pets in their hospital while you are away.
Outdoor Pets and Possible Hazards
I am NOT a fan of pets being left to live outside. It is just my personal opinion, and I don’t intend to offend anyone that keep their pets outside. I understand that this is a reality for some animals and their families. There are some cities that have actually outlawed outdoor pets and have placed limits on how long they are allowed to be outside and under what conditions. Here are some steps you can take to protect your pets while they are outside.
- Provide a warm, safe place for them to get out of the elements. They can stay warm in a securely built dog house or igloo-type dog house.
- Provide fresh water that is changed daily. This prevents it from growing bacteria and harmful molds that could make your pet sick.
- Provide fresh, nutritious food every day.
- Check them regularly for signs of injury, frostbite or other signs of problems. Conditions can change for pets rapidly giving them a good inspection daily can help you identify problems early when they’re much more likely to be treatable and cheaper at the vet’s office.
Let’s Make Some Noise
Finally, as we leave to run errands during this busy season remember to make some noise around your vehicles before getting in and starting them up. Cats and other small animals will look for a warm hidey-hole to get into to rest during the cold. Talking loudly, banging on your car near tires and the hood can help warn any animals that are nearby, that they should find a new place to hide.
If you are particularly worried about the wildlife or strays during the winter months you can provide warm places for them to rest too. Take a plastic tote or large box big enough for them to get in. Cut an opening for them, line the inside with a bit of foam board and throw in a cheap blanket or old sweater. This can help provide them with a warm place to sleep during the cold nights.
Thank you Linda @mileswithmillers for inviting me to guest blog on your site. I really enjoy reading your posts and I am glad you include pet care in your posts as well! Best of luck!