How to Care for Pets During Winter Part 1

Thursday, 29 December 2016 17:27

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Though temperatures have been relatively mild thus far, we will likely experience winter weather and brutal cold during the next few months. Whether you have indoor or outdoor pets and livestock, it is important to take precautions and make preparations their care during the winter.

In Asheville, winter weather can occur as late as March and April. In this article, we will begin a two-part series on eight tips for what to do with your pets during winter.

1) Provide Appropriate Food for Your Pets in Winter

For indoor pets, it is not necessary to provide more food than usual. Your dog’s fur coat will keep him warmer than an extra layer of fat. Dog’s Naturally Magazine recommends, “A high quality, whole foods, preferably raw meat based diet will help ensure a healthy coat and good energy for the cold winter months.”

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For outdoor pets and livestock, you should consider feeding a little more than you would during warmer months. For animals, staying warm burns more calories and requires more energy. However, the primary concern for pet owners is to take steps to ensures their coats are full and healthy.

2) Pay Close Attention to Temperatures and Weather Forecasts

On average, Asheville sees low temperatures dip below freezing nearly 100 nights per year. High temperatures will remain below freezing several days as well. However, temperatures will vary from one week to the next. Extreme cold may be preceded by unusual warmth, or vice versa.

Pet and animal owners are responsible for paying close attention to the weather forecast and responding accordingly for the health of their pets. Cold weather pet safety steps include:

  • Fresh Water: Make sure your pets and animals have access to fresh, unfrozen water.
  • Plenty of Food: Though you do not want your pets to eat too much, it is important that outdoor animals have access to enough food to compensate for the energy they will burn staying warm. Plastic Food and Water Bowls: An animal’s tongue may freeze to a cold, metal water or food bowl. Use plastic bowls during winter.
  • Shelter for Outdoor Cats and Dogs: For pets that will spend considerable portions of the day outside, it is vital that they have appropriate shelter.
  • Warm Bedding: Whether outside or indoors, pets should have warm and cozy bedding during the winter.
  • Watch for Frostbite: Like humans, animals are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite.
  • Bring Pets Inside: When temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, short-haired dogs should be allowed indoors. Long-hair breeds may be safe in temperatures as low as twenty degrees; however, always err on the side of caution.

3) What to do With Outdoor Animals When Temperatures are Cold

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Generally speaking, if it is too cold for us, it is too cold for our pets. For animals that spend most of their time outdoors, proper sheltering is key to ensuring they are warm throughout the winter. If your pets spend any amount of time outside during winter, the Humane Society recommends a dry, draft-free shelter:

“Large enough to allow them to move comfortably, but small enough to hold in body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches from the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.”

For horses, a three-sided barn should provide adequate shelter during the cold. If you choose to supplement the shelter with additional heating sources, be sure to follow all fire-safety procedures. Blankets and sweaters may be appropriate for horses as well as outdoor dogs. Additionally, allow your outside cats opportunity to come inside when temperatures reach dangerous levels.

4) Make Sure Indoor Spaces are Safe and Warm

When you bring your pets inside, make sure their indoor space is safe and warm. A few tips for preparing your pets’ inside space:

  • Make sure their bedding is warm, especially on cold concrete floors.
  • Make sure you have removed all poisons and chemical hazards. Make sure you remove any choking hazards.
  • Make sure you follow fire-safety and pet-safety procedures for heat sources.
  • Make sure pets are dry when you bring them inside.

In the next post, we will discuss additional winter, pet-safety information including: automobile procedures, appropriate walking and exercise, foot and paw care, and snow removal. For information about pet veterinary care, contact us.