We’ve just shivered through one of the coldest weekends of the year and while it’s pretty easy for us to escape the cold by rugging up inside, it’s important not to forget about the furry members of our household – especially if they generally remain outside.
Of course, how your dog or cat, for example, copes with a drop in temperatures depends on factors such as their species, breed, age and general health.
“For example, short-haired dogs such as Jack Russells and Whippets, lean breeds with low body fat like greyhounds, young puppies that have yet to develop body fat and dogs older than seven are particularly susceptible to the cold,” Braelen Zwart, Merchandise Manager Petbarn, tells Be.
Once your pet passed the age of seven they are considered ‘senior citizens’ and can be affected by arthritis as their sensitive joints are aggravated by cooler temperatures. If you notice your pet having difficulty getting up after a nap, or being a little slower in general during winter then they may be experiencing sore joints.
Another symptom of cold weather is dry skin, Braelen explains. “Especially if it is very cold outside and then they sit inside by the heater,” she tells us. “So avoid any extreme temperature changes as this will keep their skin feeling fresh.”
If you are worried you may not be able to tell whether your pet is struggling with the cold, here are some things to look out for.
If you begin to notice your pet shivering, trembling or cuddling into warm spaces, these are clear signs that your pet needs some winter warming.
“They can also have very similar symptoms to the common human cold,” Braelen says. “These symptoms include sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, decreased hunger, decreased activity, increased sleeping, nasal discharge and fever.”
Most will recover in a few days but if your pet has been sick for more than three or four days and if it appears to be getting worse, Braelen says it’s time to take them to the vet.
Greencross Vets’ Chief Veterinary Officer Rachel Chay says there are a few things every pet owner can do to keep their pet warm and safe when it’s cold outside.
“They will feel the cold just like we do, and the best way to keep them warm is to get them in a jacket or coat,” Rachel tells Be.
Winter-proof their sleeping quarters
“Many small animals find it difficult to keep themselves warm without extra insulation, such as birds and mice. Guinea pigs, for example, struggle when the temperature drops under 18 degrees celsius,” Rachel says.
To keep the cold out of their cages, she suggests, draping blankets, fleece, or cardboard over their cages to provide shelter from the chill of the winter air. Otherwise pop in a blanket or towel to burrow into.
If possible keep your pets inside
“If it’s too cold for us to be outside, then it’s likely it is too cold for our pets,” Rachel explains. “If your pet is ‘outside only’ ensure they have proper housing with raised bedding and protection from cold draughts. A warm basket, heated bed or microwave heat pad will also help your pet cope with the cold.”
Don’t overfeed your pet
You may notice your pet’s appetite increases as they are burning more energy to keep warm, but it’s important pet owners keep an eye on their pet’s weight to ensure they are satisfied, but not overfed, as this can be detrimental to their health.
“Although you may want to stay indoors during the cooler months, it is important to continue exercising your pet,” Rachel says. “If it is a particularly frosty day, it is recommended to dress your pet in a light coat.”
Try to avoid shaving or cutting our pet’s hair too short as the longer fur provides an extra layer to keep them warm.
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