Celebrating Winters—One Snuggle at a Time!

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Dr Pranav Kumar
Dr Maninder Singh
Dr Ayushi Sawhney
Pet parents face a wide variety of pet-related concerns duringharsh winter. Extreme cold, wetness, and chilled winds can cause discomfort to your special four-legged friend. Paying special attention to yourpet’s wellbeing, especially during winters, will ensure that you both enjoy the season to the fullest.  –by Dr Ayushi Sawhney, Dr Maninder Singh and Dr Pranav Kumar

Snuggle up season is here
Winters can be detrimental for the health of humans and their pets. It’s better to protect them from being exposed to the chill, lest they catch cold. Hypothermia i.e., decreased body temperature occurs when a dog spends too much time in the cold. In mild cases, the dog will shiver and ears and feet may grow cold. Signs of depression, lethargy, and weakness are seen as hypothermia progresses.

Severe hypothermia is life threatening. Another serious condition that occurs in areas where the temperature falls below zero degrees is frost bite.Frostbite begins when the dog’s body gets cold. The body automatically pulls blood from the extremities to the centre of the body to stay warm. The dog’s ears, paws, or tail can get so cold that ice crystals can form in the tissue and damage it. The skin may also turn hard and cold. As frostbitten areas warm, they can be extremely painful. Severely frostbitten skin will eventually turn black and slough off.

Many of us also have stray petsaround our homes who tend to snuggle and sleep under the cars. Ensure that you check before starting the car engine. Provide them soft and warm bedding.

Wrapped in layers of love and warmth
Can you imagine stepping out without a jacket or sweater? Then why let your pet do so? Wrap them in your love and of course sweater whenever your pet is stepping outside. A good coat should reach from the neck to the base of the tail and also protects the belly. But remember that coats will not prevent frostbite on the ears, feet, or tail.Pick the right size and keep them warm and cosy.

Soak up the sun
Try to walk your pet during late morning or early afternoon hours when temperatures are a little warmer and avoid early morning or late evening walks. Sunshine brings the added benefit of providing your pet with vitamin D, so spend time playing outdoors while it’s sunny.

Fun & fur for winter!
Dogs who are blessed with thick fur acts as a natural warmer. Your pet needs a clean, well-groomed coat to keep the body properly insulated. Make sure to remove his clothing daily and nicely brush through hair to keep the fur from matting.

Moreover, avoid shaving off their coat in winter. Baths tend to dry out their skin the similar way it does yours. You may want to cut back on the frequency of baths, and speak to your vet to find a dog shampoo that’s more moisturizing. Avoid taking your dog out for a walk immediately after giving him a bath. Let his coat dry out completely before taking him outdoors. You can also use dog perfumes and deodorants available in the market, if they get smelly.

Cosy bedding is a blessing
You should not let your pet sleep on the cold floor during winter. Arrange warm and cosy bedding for your pet. You can opt for dog beds as well. They come in various shapes and sizes. Make sure the bedding doesn’t come in direct contact with the cold floor. Place a carpet and then on top of it layer the bedding with soft sheets and blankets.

Good food is a complete mood
Some people over feed their pets as they think that the pet may need anextra layer of fat. Conversely, warmth comes from a coat and not from a layer of fat. Winters may even bring on laziness and the need for fewer calories. The calories should be adjusted according to the activity level of your pet. High quality whole food-based diet will help ensure a healthy coat and provide them good energy. Do not overfeed your pet. Make sure to give pet warm food and avoid foods like curd or buttermilk at night.

Time to hydrate
In winters, dogs feel thirsty just like us. But often they consume less water because the water in their drinking bowl turns ice-cold very soon and they don’t feel like drinking it. The old water should be replenished with fresh, room temperature water every 2-3 hours. You can also increase the hydration status by including soups and broths in their diets.

Hale, hearty & hottie
Dogs will often seek heat during cold winter weather by snuggling too close to heating sources.Be careful with room heaters, fire places etc.They are source of extreme heat and might hurt your pet accidently. Keep them at a safe distance and never leave them alone in the room with a heater or blower.

The hero of winters – health check-up
Cold weather will often aggravate existing medical conditions in dogs, particularly arthritis. If you have a pup, a senior pet, or your pet has a chronic health condition like arthritis, heart problem etc. be extra cautious during winters. Pets with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances (such as Cushing’s disease) may have a harder time regulating their body temperature, and may be more susceptible to problems from temperature extremes.The same goes for very young and very old pets. Take them for regular health check-ups.

Picture pawfect
Just as we tend to develop foot cracks in winter, dogs can also suffer from cracked paw pads. If your pet has furry feet, trim the hair that grows between his paw pads.Dog boots provide extra warmth and care. For dogs who refuse to wear booties, you can use a towel to wipe their paws after a walk. Booties provide even more coverage and can also prevent sand and stones from getting lodged between bare toes and causing irritation and cuts.

Alexa – ‘Extra dollop of moisturiser please’
Dry and cold weather can affect your pet’s skin. Prevent dry, flaky skin by adding a skin and coat supplement to their diet. If you find your pet’s paws, ears, or tail is dry or cracking, you can also apply coconut oil topically as needed. Additionally, coconut oil on the skin helps heal small cuts and lesions and eases irritation from fleabite allergies.

Just like us, your furry friends also feel cold when the temperature drops. They might experience increased discomfort with current ailments or become more susceptible to illness. But it is still possible to enjoy the best of cold season with your pets by giving them special attention and keeping them comfortable, healthy, and warm!
Say goodbye to winter woes
Keeping them inside and provide blankets
Jackets or sweaters and boots are necessary
Provide stray animals with warm clothes and share your love
Keep away from heaters, fireplace and blowers
Walk time should be when temperature is warmer
Providing warm food and water with lots of love
Regular check-ups and immediate medical help when having subnormaltemperature

(Dr Ayushi Sawhney, PhD Scholar, Division of Veterinary Surgery and Radiology; Dr Maninder Singh, MVSc Scholar, Division of Veterinary & Animal Husbandry Extension Education; Dr Pranav Kumar, Assistant Professor, Division of Veterinary & Animal Husbandry Extension Education, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences & Animal Husbandry Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences & Technology of Jammu, J&K)

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