5 MIN READ | Animal Psychology

Tommy Williamson

How to Care for Pets in Cold Weather

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Tommy Williamson, (2020, December 3). How to Care for Pets in Cold Weather. Psychreg on Animal Psychology. https://www.psychreg.org/care-pets-cold-weather/
Reading Time: 5 minutes

When the cold season comes, the air temperature drops, daylight hours decrease, and pets, just like any live creatures, need special care. The times when the immunity decreases and drowsiness appears is about to start, and the need for vitamins increases greatly. That is why it is important to know how to care for pets during the cold season properly.

How to protect dogs

Domestic dogs spend most of their time at home in a warm place, so they cannot stay in the cold for a long time. More often, dogs with short hair are usually the ones who face freezing more often. Some owners dress their pets when going outside. This provides additional protection from the cold. 

When walking your pet in winter, you need to monitor its behaviour. If the dog shudders, tightens its paws, then hypothermia has begun. In this case, you must return home. It must be remembered that often in winter, roads on the streets can be sprinkled with salt or chemicals, which is dangerous for dog paws. These substances will eat away at the pads and may cause cracks in them. Therefore, after each walk, you need to wash your dog’s paws.

Clothes save not only people from cold weather. Today, you can see many dogs dressed in fashionable winter suits. And some breeds should be dressed not only for walking but also at home if the apartment temperature suddenly drops. After all, dogs’ normal body temperature is 37.5–39 degrees (for puppies, 38–39.3 degrees). And small short-haired watchdogs often feel uncomfortable even at a temperature of 20 degrees.

When purchasing clothes for dogs or deciding to sew it yourself, consider the characteristics of your pet’s breed. Small dogs with small muscles are especially cold. They need warmer, preferably three-layer cloth. The same ones are suitable for a naked or smooth-haired dog. But pay attention to the seams. They should be stitched outward to avoid chafing. Otherwise, the pet may develop irritation and calluses. For a large, active dog, you can purchase a special blanket that will not hinder movement while running. Long-haired dogs may have problems with zippers, so use buttons and hooks in preference.

6 Tips to help your dogs cope with the cold

  • In severe frosts, shorten your walks. The time spent on the street depends on the breed, age, health of the dog. It is not recommended to walk for more than 5–7 minutes at temperatures below twenty degrees. If the dog starts to clench its paws, take it home. It is not recommended to cut the dog’s hair in winter. Avoid tangling – rolled, matted wool does not warm but disrupts heat exchanges.
  • After the walk, the dog must be wiped dry. It is unacceptable to leave icicles on the paws, stomach and wait for them to melt and dry on the dog. In this case, the dog risks catching a cold.
  • Do not overuse bathing in winter. Wool can lose its protective properties. A damp undercoat dries for a very long time and has a high thermal conductivity. Even a short walk with an incompletely dry coat may be enough for the animal to catch a cold on a frosty day. Whenever possible in winter, use special dry powder shampoos.
  • In winter, salt and reagents that are sprinkled on roads often irritate dogs on the pads. It may cause swelling, redness, dermatitis, ulceration. Before a walk, you can lubricate the dog’s paws with a cream-based on beeswax or silicone. The best thing to do is to buy special dog shoes made of dense fabric. They will protect the feet from chemicals and keep them warm. After a walk, be sure to rinse your paws with warm water from the shower even more thoroughly than in summer to remove reagents. Otherwise, cracks and ulcers may form.
  • Food and drink should be of room temperature or slightly warmer. In cold weather, it is important to feed the dog well because it takes more energy to keep warm. The emphasis should be placed mainly on meat and dry food with high protein content. But do not overfeed the indoor dogs. In winter, dogs constantly kept in the courtyard or an aviary require an inevitable increase in the diet’s calorie content – by about 25%.
  • Do not forget about vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, strengthening the immune system, taking care of skin health, and preventing exacerbations of chronic diseases. To satisfy the vitamin hunger, buy a special complex feed additive (from 100 to 300 rubles). However, do not give dogs (and cats) ascorbic acid. Their bodies make as much vitamin C as they need.

Caution

Never wear a metal muzzle or chain-necklace on your dog in winter or cold autumn weather (especially short-haired dogs). If the metal touches its body or tongue, it will be very unpleasant.

How to protect cats 

Cats become calmer in winter; they sleep a lot, eat more, and gain extra weight. During this period, you should not overfeed pets. Some cats can get cystitis – they warm themselves on a radiator, then sit on the windowsill under an open window. If the cat screams when trying to go to the toilet and the litter box remains dry, take the animal to a veterinarian. In the cold season, it is worth taking care of domestic cats, which do not go outside at all or do it infrequently. What do you need to know in order not to miss the trouble?

Some breeds have very few temperature-sensitive receptors on the skin. This allows them to sleep without unpleasant sensations in a snowdrift and to be active in the heat. But this ability sometimes plays a cruel joke with them: the cat can jump with its paws on a hot stove or freeze them on the street. In addition to paws, the tips of the ears and tail are sensitive to frost. Examine these parts of the body after each walk: if there is pale skin under the fur, this is frostbite.

In the cold, cats living in apartments face another danger – overeating. The less sun outside the window, the lazier they become. If at the same time they are still actively fed, then even the slimmest animal will grow fat. And it is tough to lose pounds for cats. Such animals suffer from diabetes and heart failure and tend to live shorter lives. In winter, be sure to give your cats grass; the healthiest grass is sprouted oats or wheat.

How to care for an aquarium in winter

Fish body temperature depends on the water in the aquarium. It is necessary to monitor the temperature regime in the cold season. A special heater can be used to make the water temperature in the aquarium comfortable for the fish. It is necessary to check it for serviceability periodically. If the water temperature drops sharply, the fish can get sick and die. 

The size of the aquarium plays an important role. If for some reason, the heater turns off, a large aquarium will keep warm longer. You also need to monitor the plants in the aquarium – check this guide. They produce oxygen in the light. In winter, the day becomes shorter; there are less oxygen and more carbon dioxide due to lack of light. Therefore, in winter, the aquarium needs additional light for up to twelve hours a day.

Winter care for birds and rodents

Parrots can hardly stand the cold. If the cage is on a windowsill, it should be removed to a warm place. But do not put it near the heater – due to temperature changes, the parrot may catch a cold. If the house is cold, the cage can be covered with a blanket while leaving one side open.

Rodents are susceptible to cold and drafts. The room should not be of a too cold temperature, and the cage should not be placed in a draft. If it is cold in the apartment for some reason, you need to insulate the cage by covering it with an old blanket (do not forget that the rodent can drag the blanket into the cage and gnaw it). Be sure to leave a path for air to enter.

If there are pets in the house, do not forget that they will need additional care and special attention from the owners in the cold season.


Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.


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