Barking Up a Freeze This Winter

During the past week Capetonians have taken all their jackets, scarves and gloves out to protect themselves against the assault of winter cold fronts. It is, however, not only people that need to be protected from the cold, but also their beloved pets:

  • Like different people react differently to cold, pets also experience cold weather differently. Research your dog and ask your TAH vet to find out how your particular pet is expected to react to the cold. Longer haired dogs originating from cold countries, like Huskies, deal better with winter than, for instance, a Chihuahua or Dachshund. Dogs with undercoats (like Toy Poms) and/or rougher coats tolerate the cold better than dogs with shorter, softer coats (like Jack Russell).
  • Take your pet for a health checkup at your TAH vet as your furry needs to be healthy to deal with colder weather. This is even more important if your pet is older. Ask your vet for advice on how to cope with the symptoms of arthritis, diabetes and heart problems that can contribute to your dog struggling to keep warm and comfortable during winter.
  • Make sure that your pets are warm at all times This could include buying them war bedding and jackets (if they do not have a lot of fur). This applies even to cats, as breeds like the traditional Siamese or the Manx have short fur which is not enough to protect them during the cold winter months. The pet must be fitted with the jacket to ensure it is not too tight or uncomfortable.
  • Ensure your pet has adequate access to shelter. Let your pet sleep inside, where possible, especially with younger ones. If you have to leave your dog outside, do not ever chain your dog.
  • When keeping your pets inside, make sure they have plenty of opportunity to relieve themselves. Cat who normally relieve themselves outdoors, will need a cat box inside the house as well.
  • If your dog sleeps outside in a kennel, the kennel should give your dog enough space to turn around, but it should not be too large, as this decreases its insulation. Make sure the kennel is waterproof and has enough blankets inside. Raise the kennel slightly off the ground to prevent it from getting wet on the inside.
  • The kennel must not be directly facing the wind and rain. Bigger pets, like horses in stables, and the cages of smaller pets, like hamsters and budgies, should also not be facing any wind and rain (or even a draft).
  • You may allow your pet a little extra food during the colder months, within limits, as pets tend to burn more energy in lower temperatures.
  • Your pets do not need to hibernate. Continue with exercises, but make sure they are protected against elements when doing so. Should you want to exercise them in the dark, especially with dogs, make sure you and your pet have adequate reflective gear to avoid motorists accidentally hitting either of you.
  • Continue to protect your pet against ticks and flees. During cold weather ticks and flees tend to seek out warm places, likes your pet’s body, for heat and shelter. Avoid dipping during the colder months and rather use tick and flee medication like Bravecto, NexGard and Frontline Plus.
  • You can still wash your pet, especially you live in wet and muddy areas, but try to minimise it to only when your pet is dirty or smelly. Dry them immediately and keep them warm.
  • Do not cut your pet’s hair during winter. If necessary, you can trim your dog (like Toy Pom)’s bums and feet, but the pet needs longer hair to help keep them warm.
  • Do not leave your pet unsupervised when you are using a heater of some sorts, or a fireplace.
  • Keep chemicals like antifreeze, that people use in their car’s radiators, out of the reach of pets. Be cautious of antifreeze dripping onto the ground while adding it to the engine of your car. Cats or dogs are likely to lick this highly poisonous chemical, which can result in death.
  • Always check underneath your bonnet and around your wheels before driving, as cats tend to lie in the warmer and more sheltered spaces of your car.
  • Make sure your microchip is up-to-date. Make sure your cat is fitted with a microchip and that it has been updated, in case your cat wanders off in search of a warm place. The microchip will enable anyone picking up your pet to trace it back to you.
  • Keep enough water available for your pet and make sure the water has not frozen.
  • Cats tend to be able to take care of themselves, but keep a look out for any signs of frostbite on their ears, tail and feet, if you live in very cold areas.
  • A cat can, in some cases, escape the house without taking the consequences into consideration, and this could possibly result in hypothermia. Look out for signs of shivering, weakness, a lack of mental awareness, stiffness, low blood pressure and shallow breathing. Should the symptoms occur, take your pet to the vet immediately.
  • Check your indoor fish tank regularly over the winter months to make sure the temperature doesn’t get too low.
  • Horses cope very well in cold temperatures, but look at providing a windbreak, like a field shelter or even a line of trees, to block some of the wind or rain. Also, walk your horse after exercise so they can cool down slowly and use a cooler blanket to stop their body temperature from losing heat too quickly.


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