Not everyone is lucky enough to live in a state with relatively consistent weather and temperatures. Just as humans change their behavior and diet with fluctuations in temperature, so do most animals. Here are our guidelines for seasonal care for your pets.
If temperatures plummet and your pet usually likes to spend most of its time outdoors, try and persuade them to stay indoors in the warm instead. If circumstances mean that your pet has to be kept outdoors then take steps to ensure that they are as warm and comfortable as possible. This means providing them with a dry and draft-free shelter with plenty of extra blankets. You should also regularly check their water supply to ensure that it hasn’t frozen.
If the ground is covered with snow, ice or just extremely cold then you may want to consider animal booties. These are widely available from most pet stores.
Be prepared to see a change in your pets eating habits. Outdoor pets tend to require extra food. They burn this extra food to help keep them warm. Indoor pets are likely to eat far less as they conserve energy by sleeping more.
Keep your pets away from antifreeze. Unfortunately, it smells and tastes delicious to dogs and cats, but even the smallest sip can be deadly. Keep pets out of garages and outbuildings and clean up any spillages as soon as they happen. Speak to your neighbors about the dangers and ask them to ensure that any antifreeze they have is securely stored and that they too clean up any spillages that may occur. If your pet acts as if they are drunk or begins to convulse then take them to a vet immediately.
Check under the hood of your car before starting the engine. Many cats like to sneak under the hood of a vehicle once you have gone inside so that they can curl up against the warm engine. If you are unable to open the hood then a firm tap on it should be sufficient to wake any sleeping cat.
Holidays are enjoyable for the whole family, but also tend to increase availability of dangerous treats for our pets. Chocolate can be toxic and even deadly for animals. Dogs are most commonly affected as they are renowned for having a ‘sweet tooth’.
The most common symptoms of chocolate ingestion are seen within the first 12 hours and can include:
- Diarrhea and/or vomiting
- Excitement or trembling that may be perceived as nervousness
- Excessive thirst and occasionally excessive urination
- Muscle spasms
- Coma (rare)
- Death (rare but if death occurs it is usually as a result of heart rhythm abnormalities).
Chocolate is toxic to dogs and other animals because they are unable to break down a chemical component in it known as Theobromine effectively. If you suspect that your pet has ingested chocolate then you should immediately contact your veterinarian for advice.
Dogs release excess heat through their paw pads and by panting. Unfortunately, animals with brachycephalic (flat) faces such as pugs and Persian cats are unable to pant as effectively due to their shortened nasal passages. This makes them more vulnerable to heat stroke and dehydration.
Dehydration is a major concern for all animals in summer. Ensure that you regularly offer plenty of cool water to your pet and that there is somewhere shady for them to rest. You should also keep them indoors during the hottest part of the day.
If you cannot place the back of your hand on to the sidewalk and hold it there for more than 5 seconds without it becoming painful then it will be too hot for your pets’ paws and you should avoid letting them outside until it has cooled.
Antifreeze can also leak out of overheating cars. See our advice on antifreeze in the ‘winter’ section above.
Don’t forget sunscreen! It is possible to buy specialist pet sunscreen to protect your pet from the summer sun. It is especially important to apply to pets with short fine hair and pink skin. You must never use any sunscreen that is not designed specifically to be used on animals. Speak to your veterinarian about the sunscreen that is right for your pet.
If you take your dog to a river, lake, pool or the beach to cool off then be very vigilant of their safety in the water.