It feels like winter has finally made its mark and while we might be getting out the heavier blankets, starting up our fires and getting our crockpots cooking once again, we need to spare a thought for our pets who also have extra needs during the cooler months.

Despite their furry coats, which act as a layer of protection and warmth, our pets (just like us humans) prefer comfort over discomfort. All pets can suffer from the cold. From hypothermia to frostbite, your pets are at risk during the winter.

Below we outline some things to think about and ideas on how you can help make your pet more comfortable over the winter months.

Aches and pains
Is your dog struggling to get out of bed or are you noticing any limping or stiffness? Or is your cat sleeping more, grooming less and less likely to climb or jump to higher places? These could be signs of arthritis or an age-related disease. Just like in humans, often these problems become worse in cooler months. There are several options to treat arthritis and age-related problems, so it’s a good idea to speak to your vet if you have any concerns.

Exercise and winter weight
Try to keep your pet at a healthy weight during winter. Wet and miserable days might put you off walking your dog – but it’s important to persevere. Animals still require daily exercise and yes, getting out of a warm home and out into the elements for walk can take a bit of effort, but our dogs seem to take it in their stride, so we should too!

Remember, during darker winter days, you and your pet may be harder to see if out walking. Reflective collars, leashes or tags are great ways to help motorists see you. If going for a walk is not an option, then playing with toys or other mental stimulation inside the home will also keep your pet fit and healthy.

You may notice that your pet’s appetite increases during winter. This is especially true in outside pets that use more energy to keep warm. Make sure to give your pets the proper nutrition that he or she needs and be wary of too many winter treats.

Fleas like winter too
Although the flea population is less during winter, it is still present. Some people don’t prioritise treating their animals for fleas during winter, however fleas are a year-round threat. In fact, during the cooler months we heat our homes and cars creating ideal conditions for fleas to breed and lay eggs. Treating your pet year-round and on a regular basis is integral to good flea control and this is because fleas have an amazing life cycle and powerful breeding power.

Better bedding
Despite your pet’s fur coat, they aren’t equipped to be out in cold temperatures for prolonged periods, especially during the night.  Adequate shelter is necessary all year-round, but it is especially important when it’s rainy or frosty weather. If your pet lives indoors, make sure they have a warm place to sleep – one which is elevated from the cold floor and away from any draughts. If your pet lives outdoors, it is essential they have shelter that is well insulated, warm, waterproof and windproof. A dry warm bed is essential for all pets and a heating pad can also offer extra comfort. Remember, in severe weather or during storms, bring your pets inside for their safety.

Hidden dangers
Heaters and fires: Cats and dogs will seek out sources of warmth in winter but be careful of your pets around heater and fires. Ensuring they don’t get too close is essential to keeping them safe.

Cars: Be wary of using antifreeze, which can leak easily from your radiator. Antifreeze tastes sweet and dogs will readily lick or drink it. If you suspect your pet has consumed antifreeze, take them to a vet immediately. Antifreeze is highly toxic and can be fatal.

If your animal displays unusual behaviours during the winter months, it is a good idea to have them checked out by your veterinarian as they may have underlying health issues. Come visit us at any of our four clinics in Tauranga, Te Puna, Katikati and Papamoa and speak to one of our team if you have any concerns.