As much of the country is moving into the snowy and icy part of the year, we wanted to share tips for caring for your animals who live outdoors.
Winter Wellness Check
Start the winter season off right by taking your pet for a checkup. It's best to get ahead of any illness. Many older pets suffer from arthritis which can worsen in cold weather.
After a checkup, your animals will be better prepared to live outdoors during the winter. If they suffer from a major illness, allow them to remain indoors until the weather warms up.
As a rule of thumb, if you are cold, so are your animals! If you have an outside dog or cat, we recommend moving them indoors. If you are unable to bring the animal inside, build a shelter where they can stay warm. Make sure that it shields them from cold winds, snow, and ice.
When you start your car in the morning, make sure you make a lot of noise. Animals may seek shelter under the car, and you don't want to run over the neighbor's cat.
If you have a picky Shih-Poo (like I do), you know that her tolerance for bad weather of any kind is very low. It's important to understand your pet's tolerance for cold weather. Shorten walks, and be very careful in icy or slick conditions to avoid slips or falls. Pets with serious health conditions may have difficulty regulating their body temperatures. So grab that sweater, no matter how silly they might look!
If you have a dog walker or caretaker for your pets during the day, communicate with them what your pets needs are. They may not be as aware of your pet's limitations as you are and you can avoid unnecessary injury.
“ never leave your pets unattended in your car!
And never leave your pets unattended in your car! During winter months, they can freeze or become hypothermic. A car can feel as cold as a refrigerator or freezer, so it's best to not leave your animals in the car.
Horses & Livestock Need Winter Love, too
Your horse and livestock need checkups as the weather turns cold, so be sure to get them examined. It's a good time for vaccinations, deworming, and nutritional supplements and diet changes.
Adequate shelter is super important. Livestock can withstand colder climates, but high winds and freezing rain and snow cause them to use their fat stores more quickly. Make sure they have quality feed to keep their energy up. Hay can be a primary source of food, but add vitamins and nutritional supplements to keep your horse and livestock healthy.
We recommend a proper shelter, with ventilation and warm, dry bedding. A barn or shelter is far better at protecting animals from extreme weather, but you can also choose to use blankets. Make sure you check your blanketed horses frequently for injury or illness.
Make an appointment with your farrier so they can tend to the horse's hooves. Watch out after a fresh snow for the little "ice balls" that can pack into the hoof. The clumps of ice and snow and cause your horse to lose traction and slip and fall, or suffer an abscess. You can use a home remedy, like cooking spray or cooking oil, but you will need to reapply frequently.
Metal horseshoes do not provide as much traction as a bare hoof. Many farriers suggest going barefoot or use riding boots in cold weather. Riding boots will prevent the buildup of "ice balls," and are great for trails and arena work.
If you have just groomed and trimmed your horse, keep them indoors when temperatures dip too low.
All Outdoor Animals
Hydration is still very important in the winter time! Make sure they have access to water, that is not frozen. Many animals do not like drinking cold or frozen water, so you'll need to refresh their water supply often. Drinking water from snow can be harmful, as it can carry bacteria that can cause digestive distress and gastric disorders.
Recognize Signs of Medical Emergencies
Animals are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia, even if they have long hair or thicker coats. If the temperatures drop below freezing, it's not safe for your pet to be outside.
Hypothermia is a serious medical emergency where your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat. If your animal is acting strangely, they could be suffering from hypothermia. The symptoms vary but watch for animals making whining noises, shivery, or moving slowly.
Frostbite is sneaky, and you may not recognize the signs until after there is damage. If you suspect frostbite, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Share Your Tips!
If you have any questions or tips to share, we'd love to hear from you! We refer to the AVMA and SPCA for information about animal and pet safety. Check them out!