We’ve all become familiar with the alterations we make to our daily routine to accommodate the change of weather. We adjust our wardrobe, choose the most comforting meals, and leave the house prepared to face ice or heat. Cats, dogs, and the other pets at home require the same sort of adjustment, which means the care you provide them needs to change with the seasons.
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This article covers:
- How the change in weather affects your pet
- How to protect your pet in the heat
- How to protect your pet in the cold
The Effects of Weather Change
The change of weather has its impact on all of us. While you’re suffering with chapped lips, your pet at home is affected in its own way. Before you can properly care for these new pet problems, it helps to know first what the ailments are, and why they happen.
Irritation of Skin
Cold and dry weather is going to have the same effect on everyone. Low humidity and home heating -- such as fireplaces and indoor heaters -- can be the cause for cracked and irritated dry skin. This may lead to the other problem of dandruff.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a psychological occurrence seen most often in humans -- it’s the depression that results in too many days without sunlight. Pets can also suffer from SAD in those times of the year when the sun isn’t visible for weeks. Symptoms of SAD in your pet may include behavioral changes of aggression, sluggishness, demanding more attention, or having more indoor accidents.
Hazards that Come With the Weather
With each season, there are seasonal hazards that put your pet at risk of injury. This is especially true for the cold seasons that hold the risk of frostbite and slippery ice. Ears, tail, and paws are especially susceptible to frostbite. Icy sidewalks add a greater risk of slipping and falling, which can lead to severe injury, especially for your older pets. The salts used to combat these slippery surfaces are also a cause for concern, as they contain toxins that, when ingested or caught in the paws, will cause illness and/or irritation for your pet.
Leaving your dog in the car is always going to be a risk in extreme weather conditions. The car will also enhance the temperatures of the seasons, putting the pup inside at serious risk of dangerously high and low temperatures. During the cold seasons, an inactive car will keep the cold in and freeze the pet inside. The car is more commonly known for its danger in the hot seasons, when the car will enhance the heat of the day and could cause a fatal heat stroke.
Dehydration is the main cause of concern for the warmer seasons. Dogs, cats, and any other pet at home needs a lot of cool and clean water available to combat thirst and the heat.
Metabolism and Appetite
It takes more energy producing body heat in the cold weather. This is directly tied to your pet’s change in appetite, as more calories are needed to produce more body heat. Dogs have a hormonal instinct to eat more in the winter to store fat. A change in temperature could lead to a change in metabolism, which means your pet’s weight may go up or down. This doesn’t hold true for all pets, and a change in diet isn’t always necessary.
Changes in the Body
Joint stiffness can be a cause of cooler, damper seasons, and can be noticed in your pet as a reluctance to run and jump, stiffness, and depression. A drop in atmospheric pressure may lead to a swelling of tissue that puts pressure on nerves. Inactivity in the colder seasons can increase pain from arthritis.
Sick and elderly dogs will have a more difficult time regulating their body temperatures. This is a cause of concern because low body heat can turn into a number of different problems. It affects a dog’s heart rate, and can cause low oxygen and high blood pressure in the body. Sick dogs are especially at risk if they maintain a low body temperature, because the chance of infection will increase due to a suppressed immune system, and wounds will heal slower, and medication may not have the desired effect due to the liver struggling to metabolize medication.
How to Protect
The risks vary in seriousness, but the seasons are nothing new, and there are products and actions available that can undermine most risks. Just as you rely on observations of weather to tell you when to put on a jacket, these observations will also tell you when it’s necessary to carry out extra caution for your pet, in the summers and winters to come.
It’s the hottest days of the year, and there are some obvious concerns caused by the heat that need to be addressed to keep your pet safe from harm. The main concern is staying cool and keeping hydrated.
When is water not your best friend? Your dog should be getting several clean bowls of it a day, no matter the season. But in hot seasons, water takes on a new level of importance. Pets get dehydrated quickly, so it’s important to keep an eye on the amount of water left in the dog bowl. Don’t worry about giving your dog too much. Fill up and replace the water as frequently as possible. If you want to treat your dog, throw some ice cubes in. But just be warned the ice cubes may end up being fished out and chewed somewhere else in the house.
Avoid Areas of Risk
There are many areas of risk that your pet should avoid or be closely supervised under. Such as a hot, unattended car. Don’t leave your dog in the car, the heat will be too much for them. Dogs love going for a swim in the summer, and you should be keeping close supervision to make sure your dog doesn’t find itself in trouble. If taking a dip in a pool, wash off your dog afterwards to rid the fur and skin of any lingering chlorine and other chemicals.
If going on a walk with your dog, give your dog a few breaks under some refreshing shade. If your dog is excessively panting and drooling, you know it’s time to take a break.
Trim, Not Shaved
Your long-haired friend may be suffering under all that fur in the heat. It’s fine to trim some fur away on your dog, but never shave. The layers of coat are actually protecting your dog from overheating and sunburn. For a cat, all you really need to do is brush their fur.
Chemicals used in the summer such as rodenticide and lawn and garden insecticides can be harmful to your pets and should be kept out of reach. Some barbeque foods can also be poisonous, such as alcohol, chocolate, grapes, and others.
In the coldest days of the year, you’ll make the best memories playing in the snow with your household pets. But precautions should be followed to avoid the risks of the cold. Take time to understand your pet’s limits with the cold, and adjust accordingly.
Some days are too cold to even take a step outside. When you’re experiencing temperatures close to and below freezing, keep your cats and dogs inside. Accessories and clothing can be bought for your pet if they can tolerate wearing it. There are dog and cat coats, and even booties to protect paws. At night, be sure your dog has a sleeping arrangement that agrees with them and keeps them warm.
Keep your pets in a healthy weight range. This means don’t overfeed your cat and dog, but also consider your pet may need more calories to generate more body heat.
Just like in the summer, winter brings risk of poisoning to pets. The salt and other chemicals deposited on the ground to melt snow and ice are a health hazard. Keep your pets away from antifreeze, which is extremely toxic to pets.
Apply a balm to your dog’s paw pads before a walk, and while you’re paying attention to the paws, look out for cracked pads and bleeding, which would require medical attention. After a walk, your dog needs a full wipe-down. Wipe down their paws and apply an additional layer of balm afterwards. Don’t forget to also wipe their bellies and legs to rid of any clinging chemicals your dog picked up along the way. This ensures your dog can’t lick toxins that can cause more serious harm.
The seasons are always going to go through their cycle, and we need to go through our own cycle of watching out for and preventing risk for our pets. For every risk, there is a way to combat it so you’re household pet is happy and safe in watching the seasons change.