For most pet lovers trying to envisage a moment of absolute contentment, the image of sitting in the wintry sunshine with their pet animal in their lap would probably come forth unbidden. For any pet lover, the word “warm cuddle” would evince the response “my pet” as the season for warm cuddles with our furry friends is round the corner. It seems that by some divine design our dogs and cats have been specially attired for this season. But nothing puts a bigger dampener on this season of cheer than a bout of cold, cough and sneezes. Some of us have an unfortunate tendency of believing that our pets don’t succumb to the vagaries of winter as easily as we do. The truth is that they need as much care to be able to return that warm cuddle.
Following is a list of do’s and don’ts to help you give your pets the cold weather care they deserve.
- Pups are unable to handle extreme weather conditions so make sure they are always well covered. Pay special attention at night time as pups may fall asleep on the bare floor and catch a bad chill. A warm bedding with a cosy blanket should suffice. Its better to serve warm food. Avoid giving cold water, curd, ice creams etc. A warm water sponge is a better alternative to bathing.
- All the vaccinations and deworming should be up to date as viruses thrive at this time of the year.
- A change of season is the time when the physiological apparatus of the body is under duress and leads to a lowered resistance against common diseases. So make sure the pet is well nourished. Switching to a commercial dry dog food will make things simpler. The food should be calorie rich to generate enough energy to cope with the cold especially so for dogs living at higher altitudes. An increase in fats and proteins is also recommended.
- Protect your pet with woollen clothes as per the individual requirement. In places where it snows, the pet should be kept indoors to avoid unnecessary exposure and to prevent snow related accidents. Specially designed footwear for dog paws should be used when taking out for walks to prevent frostbite.
- Towel or blow-dry your dog if he gets wet from rain or snow. Pay special attention to paws. Vaseline can be used to remedy dry paws, muzzle and small cracks/cuts.
- Outdoor dogs need extra protection in the form of an elevated, well-covered shelter to protect against the cold breeze. Extreme cold conditions warrant the use of heaters equipped with humidifiers.
- Change walk timings to later in the morning and earlier in the evening. Apart from providing them with sunlight it will also keep them away from chilly part of the day.
- Do not clip your pet’s hair at this time of the year as it provides them with natural insulation. Most dogs shed their summer coats before getting a new winter coat. Dry skin is common in indoor pets probably because of use of heaters leading to low humidity. To remedy this frequent brushing and providing them with hair care supplements is advised.
- Ideally bring down the bathing frequency to once in 2 months.
- Dogs are just as likely to get dehydrated in winters as in summers, so always provide them with fresh water.
- People who have never experienced their pet having a cough might confuse it for retching/vomiting. A cough, if left untreated, may develop into pneumonia. There can also be heavy dripping from the nose or a thick nasal/ocular discharge. Causes might include a simple bacterial infection or an influenza virus in unvaccinated dogs.
- Smog might trigger an attack in an asthmatic dog so be well prepared in advance with emergency medicines. Allergies are common with the change in season and can simply be remedied with anti-allergy drugs.
- Vomiting and loose motions could be a simple reaction to the season change or a bacterial infection. It can also indicate the presence of deadly virus such as canine parvovirus or canine distemper. Either ways do not delay the treatment.
- Old dogs should be showered with the kind of care and attention that we would give to our grandparents or any other old person for that matter. Old age can inflict several problems like arthritis, lowered immunity to respiratory infections, heart ailments, etc. The winter cold can exacerbate any such existing problem. If your dog has trouble getting up, sitting down, is limping or gets stiff after exercise, these could be the initial warning signs of osteoarthritis. This is a degenerative joint disease and appropriate medication for pain relief should be provided. Supplements like cod liver oil have proven to be helpful.
So here’s wishing all the pets a healthy, warm and a cheery winter.
(Dr. Kamaldeep Chaggar started working with animals at the age of 13 at her father’s clinic. She did her B.V.Sc & A.H. from P.A.U. Ludhiana. After graduating, she moved to London to further enhance her veterinary skills. For the past 6 years, in partnership with her vet brother Dr R.S. Chaggar, she has been operating from their three privately owned practices in South Delhi. Call her at : 9811389089.)