Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Should You "Winterize" Your Pet?

(BPT) - The arrival of autumn signals many changes in the household, from switching from salads to soups to pulling sweaters out of storage to changing furnace filters. With pets, however, you may need to think as much about what you don't change as what you do.

Chicago veterinarian Dr. Shelly Rubin is well acquainted with the dramatic temperature swings that accompany the change of seasons, as well as how to help pets and owners cope with them. Following is his list of fall do's and don'ts for pet owners.

* Don't 'fall' off the exercise wagon. With days getting shorter - and cooler - it can be tempting to skip your early morning or evening walk. But with more than half of all pets in the U.S. being overweight or obese, exercise is vital. A daily walk, or several shorter walks, can rev the metabolism of both two- and four-legged walkers for hours.

* Do ensure your pet is outfitted for cooler weather. Small, light-bodied breeds, dogs with very short hair and older dogs with weakened immune systems are likely to need a sweater when venturing outside. And once cold and snowy weather sets in, dogs may require protective footwear to keep their paw pads from freezing.

* Don't assume that cooler weather eliminates the threat of diseases like heartworm, which are spread by infected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes have been known to survive well into the winter months, thanks to indoor havens and protected microclimates existing within larger, cooler climate zones. For this reason, the American Heartworm Society recommends year-round heartworm protection for both dogs and cats.

* Do ensure your senior pet has a warm, draft-free place to sleep. Many older dogs and cats suffer from arthritis. Just as sore joints in people tend to feel worse in cold weather, so it is with pets. A warm cozy bed can make nights - and mornings - more comfortable.

* Do be sensitive to your pets' feelings if fall brings changes to your household. Just like people, pets can get depressed. And if you're missing a son or daughter who has moved away to start college or a job, chances are your family pet is also feeling the loss. Spending time with your pet and giving him an extra measure of cuddling and affection will help both of you feel better.

Do you take any special measures for your pets as the weather turns cooler?


  1. In cooler weather, Pepper gets more outside time & more walks, because the risk of heatstroke is greatly reduced. :) If the temperature is in less than 35 degrees, or if she seems cold, I put a sweater or coat on her. I think her breed naturally winterizes itself by growing a thicker coat and a layer of insulation(she gets the same amount of food as in Summer).

    1. We like the cooler weather too for walks and zoomy time outside! I think it helps that we don't live in an extreme climate with lots of snow, though!

  2. My guys LOVE the cold weather. It's got to be below about 10 degrees before they complain! I've learned to don ski-bibs and several layers so I can keep up. Of course, cold like that doesn't happen this early nor does it happen for very long here in the DC area. The hot weather is much more of an exercise killer.

  3. Hmm. Maybe I should have my Hunny make leather moccasins for my Aussies. Otherwise, they love the cold weather. Especially curling up in front of the fireplace!

  4. Great info and tips, as always! I'm always cold and shivering in the winter time, but all you need to do is put a jacket or (preferably) a sweater on me and then I'm as happy as a sand boy! The only bad part about winter is the rain...I haven't come up with a great solution for that yet! Hm...

  5. When it gets REALLY cold we use Musher's Secret for their feet. Other than that, they don't need any winterizing. (we do keep u daily walks religiously, regardless of the weather)

  6. Thank you SO much for mentioning heartworm! It's an all-year battle, for certain! (Paw-waves to Cosmo!!)

  7. That's a lot of great advice! With the Greyhounds, we tend to have gear for almost any kind of weather. There's a heated dog bed here now that is getting very popular at night, too!