Winter is well and truly upon us, and is the time for warm winter meals and sitting by the heater. Our pets also feel the cold and so we thought it would be a good idea to talk about the extra things we can do for our pets so winter is not a miserable time for them.It is especially important for animals which are caged to be given extra care during winter months, as they cannot go somewhere to escape the weather.
Dogs – need a kennel which is out of the wind and rain, preferably under a verandah, or in a garage. And you need to make sure the opening does not face into the wind but is totally sheltered. Dogs also need to have dry and warm bedding off the ground. You might even consider a coat for a dog that spends all his time outside in the winter. If not a bought coat, an old jumper which fits the dog can also work perfectly.
Cats – also need access to warm and dry bedding, and if an outside cat, should have an igloo or bed in a garage or another suitable area out of the weather. Cats have a way of seeking out shelter and as they love warmth are prone to do things like jump up into the wheel arch or engine bay of a car. In winter, check your car before driving off if your cat does likes to hang around your car.
Rabbits and guinea pigs – need their hutches to be off the ground, with plenty of fresh straw, and definitely out of the rain and wind.
Aviary birds – if possible, the aviary should be built so it faces the north in the winter and gets the winter sun. Straw spread thickly on the floor of the aviary will help to protect against rising cold. It will also make it easier to keep the aviary clean in the winter months, as the straw can be removed and replaced whereas it is too cold to wash the aviary floor in winter. The aviary should have parts which are completely enclosed so the birds are not exposed to wind or rain. Aviaries which do face a windy aspect need to have a cover placed over them during the winter. This could be plastic or canvas or clear roofing sheets which are placed temporarily to enclose the aviary. Many birds can cope with cold but not with draughts, and so it is important to keep an area of the aviary free from draughts and damp.
Our dogs still need exercise in winter. Depending on the breed of dog, this may mean a walk along the favourite route, or it may mean in romp in the snow, if your area has snow. If a dog starts to whimper or whine or shows resistance to walking where usually they are happy to go, consider that they may be suffering with cold, or with an arthritic condition. If putting a coat on the dog doesn’t help, then you may need to consider a vet’s opinion on the cause of the distress.
Our older pets can develop arthritis, just as people can. Difficulty with standing up from lying down, stiff legs when walking, reluctance to walk, difficulty with sitting, lying, hopping or any activity are all symptoms of arthritis. Pets with this condition need to be diagnosed and managed by a vet and for the sake of the pet, it is advisable to get a vet’s opinion and advise when symptoms first become noticeable. You can help an arthritic pet by providing a warm place, preferably inside, with warm bedding. Heat pads are available from pet supply shops which have the same effect as an electric blanket and help an arthritic pet cope more with their condition. Beds are important to these pets – preferably a soft sided bed, which is low and which the pet can just walk into are best.
Just as people usually love to eat warm puddings, casseroles and soups – winter foods – we need to also consider our pets may need to have a winter diet. Pets kept indoors will probably be happy with the usual amount of food, as they are not necessarily expending any more energy than normal However, pets kept outside will burn more energy just trying to keep warm. And this means your pet may need more food in winter. Old, frail, thin and very young animals in particular need more food in winter. Make sure the food is good quality and age suitable and consult a vet if in any doubt