Dogs and cats are more comfortable in the cooler months than in the extreme heat of summer. With a few adjustments to their diet and housing, they should enjoy a healthy winter.
Most pets should be fed more in the winter months. More food is needed to maintain the body temperature and it is better to supply this in the morning and evening than by giving one large evening meal.
An increase in the amount of fat in the diet is warranted as this not only provides extra energy but also contains certain fat-soluble vitamins. Milk, cheese or fresh meat can be used as a source of fat. The kibble dry foods contain milk powders as well as being a good source of carbohydrates.
This recommendation to increase the amount of food presumes that your pet is reasonably active. If you have a dog or cat that is already overweight and spends most of the day in a heated house, no extra food should be given.
Pets kept indoors for long periods in a hot atmosphere are prone to develop chronic respiratory disease. The drying out of the mucous membranes leads to irritations of the nasal passages and throat causing the animal to snuffle, cough or have difficulty in swallowing.
Cats confined for long periods tend to empty their bladders infrequently. This stagnation of the urine inside the bladder can lead to urinary infections. The incidence of urinary obstructions in male cats tends to rise during the winter. Both dogs and cats should be taken out at least three times during the day.
The health of the animal’s skin and coat suffers when long periods are spent indoors. The skin becomes dry and the hair remains thin and dull. To combat this, polyunsaturated oils should be added to the food and the animal should be groomed regularly to stimulate the circulation of the skin.
Fleas can remain a problem in house pets. Outside, the life cycle of the flea is interrupted with the onset of freezing temperatures. Inside, flea eggs continue to hatch in the crevices of floors and under carpets and blankets. Care should be taken to keep bedding changed and vacuum daily wherever your pet is prone to rest.
Making your pet wear coats or jumpers during the winter is counterproductive. These not only tend to inhibit the normal development of a dense hair cover during the cold months but encourage the persistence of skin irritations and flea infestations. Only in the case of old inactive short-haired dogs is a coat or jumper justified.
It is important that your pet has adequate shelter and bedding at night. Most animals prefer to be slightly raised off the ground. It is not necessary to have an elaborate kennel, in fact, many dogs disappoint their owners by sleeping outside their deluxe accommodation.
The new inflatable dog beds are excellent but choose one large enough for your pet to be able to easily change position. A clean blanket or old eiderdown or sleeping bag with a detachable cover that can be washed is suitable to lie on. Some owners find a discarded bean bag a practical and comfortable pet bed.
Regular exercise is very important in the winter months. You will probably find that your dog is much livelier at this time of the year and it is important that it stretches muscles and joints and maintains muscle tone to ward off rheumatic and back problems.
Walks in the surrounding country are most enjoyable for both owners and dogs at this time of the year as there are no snakes, flies or grass seeds to worry about.