Whether or not they show it, pets are sensitive to colder weather. We know you want yours to stay healthy and cosy, so read our tips on how to keep your pet warm during these chillier months.
Make sure there’s proper shelter 24/7
Wind chill is real and cold snaps can be sudden. So make sure your pets are always protected via access to safe, warm shelter. When you’re home, when you’re out, and when you’re walking together.
A good outdoor shelter should fit your pets comfortably (within reason – Stevie the Snake can stay in her vivarium). This ensures they warm up quickly with body temperature alone. In the same vein, it should also:
- be sealed properly to keep heat in while still allowing enough air to breathe
- have enough warm blankets to further insulate your fur baby
- be raised well off the ground/floor, especially if you live somewhere that gets really cold
NOTE: Pets should be brought inside when temperatures drop below 4 degrees Celsius.
No bare floor where sleeping dogs lie!
Dogs, cats and other pets might like to lie on cool concrete or tiles in summer, and even in winter out of habit However, they should never be made to sit or sleep on bare floors in winter.
It can lower their overall body temperature and inflame arthritic joints. A single blanket may not be enough to stave off the chill either.
When figuring out how to keep your pet warm, consider: would you lie there and snooze on it?
Dress for the weather
When it comes to cats, unless you’re keeping it outside (not good for them or the wildlife), there’s no need for clothing. And usually, dogs don’t need clothes either. Speak to your vet about your pet’s needs before buying up on winter fashion.
If they think your dog may need an extra layer, an easily washable doggie jersey is great. Especially for short-legged dogs who run close to the ground and often get wet from it.
But no loose, lengthy, floppy or dangly bits. These can lead to accidents and even strangle an animal. And don’t forget that a clothed pet near the heater is going to get really hot really fast; take it off as the room warms.
TIP: Look for a doggie jersey that’s waterproof underneath if your dog is active outdoors.
Exercise is still important
We’re all inclined to stay inside in colder weather, including pets. Some may naturally hibernate or become less active, like some reptiles, but mammals need to move. Encourage non-hibernating pets to get active by playing food games with them.
“For dogs that are food-motivated, you can encourage activity by spreading meals throughout different parts of the house or throwing kibble to have your pet chase it down a hallway,” says vet Deborah Linder.
“Mentally stimulating dogs can also be a great way to get them moving with food-dispensing toys and interactive or puzzle toys.”
This will raise their body temperature and help maintain their metabolism.
Adjust winter diet under expert guidance
Warming the body takes extra energy, but some pets do far less in winter. Consult your vet about adjusting your pet’s diet over colder months to accommodate their change in activity.
Some dogs love the snow, for example, and might play in it several times a day. On those days, they may need more calories to counterbalance the extra exercise.
Other dogs will steer clear, even for toilet breaks. Because they’re less active they should consume fewer calories.
Depending on your climate, your pet’s skin may also dry out somewhat. Foods with extra oils like coconut oil can help reduce uncomfortable cracked skin.
Get a heater barrier
Ever melted your slippers resting them on the outside of the heater. Burnt your arm sitting too close? Fallen asleep near one, to the sound of sizzling, burning hair and discovered your head is on fire? We hope not, but pets can make the same mistakes with a heat source.
It’s inviting when you’re very cold, but it can quickly get too much. Knowing how to keep your pet warm is one thing, but protecting them from being too warm is another.
Put barriers in place to keep pets a safe distance from all heaters, whether they’re gas, electric or firewood-fuelled. And don’t let pets have direct access to electric blankets, as there’s a risk of electrocution if they chew the wires, or they’re wet.
NOTE: Carbon monoxide is a gas you can’t smell, taste, or see, but it can kill. Have a gas heater? Make sure you have at least two vents open (ideally diagonally across from each other, like a window and a door) for fresh air to flow into the space.
Know when it’s too cold
Any mammal can succumb to the cold with nasty conditions like frostbite on the ears or hypothermia. If it’s too cold outside for you to bear, it’s probably too cold for your pet.
Very young pets and older ones will also be more susceptible to low temperature, wind chill, and the wet than adult pets. And they could get really ill from it. Watch for signs that your pooch can’t handle the deep chill, including shaking, cowering, repeatedly lifting up their feet and continuously trying to go back inside. Remember: Hypothermia can kill.
It’s one of those things that can happen without you realising. Just like accidents and unexpected illnesses. Best to look into pet insurance and ensure your fur baby is covered for unforeseen treatments.
Watch the water
Pets always need access to fresh water, indoors and outdoors. Even in winter when they might be less active. The dryness and warmth of artificial indoor heating can make them thirstier than usual.
If you live in a really cold area, consider a heated bowl like this to keep water from freezing.
Give pooch fewer baths and dry them when wet
Body temperature changes with heated or cold water. Add a coat that retains that, and you can figure out why we’re suggesting you ease up on pet baths in winter. Though not to the point where pooch becomes unpleasant to be around!
If your pet has fur that’s wet, best to towel them down. It’s extremely important they’re entirely dry before being exposed to outdoor air.
Over to you – How to keep your pet warm in winter
Do you have any experiences to share that can help other pet parents? How’s your winter going? We’d love to know on our PD Insurance NZ Facebook page.