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Protecting Your Pets this Winter

As winter has arrived in Australia, it is vital to ensure our pets are snug and safe. Our furry companions feel the cold just like we do, and providing them with shelter, warmth, and nourishment is essential.

Petstock Vet Dr. Sasha Nefedova offers essential safety guidance for navigating the season.

Understanding Winter Risks

Winter brings a host of potential risks for pets, ranging from exposure to cold temperatures and dry skin to various hazards indoors and outdoors. Understanding these risks is paramount to safeguarding our pets' wellbeing throughout the season.

Each type of pet faces its own set of challenges during winter:

✔️ Dogs: Our furry friends are susceptible to cold temperatures, especially those with short coats or underlying health conditions. Frostbite and hypothermia are significant concerns, particularly during outdoor activities in extreme cold.

✔️ Cats: While cats may seem more independent, they are not immune to the dangers of winter. Outdoor cats may seek warmth in hazardous places, such as car engines, risking injury or death. Indoor cats may suffer from dry skin and boredom due to reduced outdoor activity.

✔️ Small pets: Rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small mammals are vulnerable to cold temperatures and drafts. They may require extra bedding and protection from chilly drafts to stay warm and comfortable. Additionally, outdoor enclosures should be insulated and weatherproofed to shield these pets from harsh winter conditions.

✔️ Birds: Avian pets, such as parrots and budgies, may experience respiratory issues in cold, draughty environments. Providing adequate heating and insulation in bird cages is essential to prevent temperature-related health problems.

✔️ Reptiles: Cold-blooded reptiles, including snakes, lizards, and turtles, may enter a state of brumation during winter, reducing their metabolic activity. Proper heating and lighting are critical to maintaining optimal temperatures and ensuring the health and well-being of reptile pets during the colder months.

Combating Dry Skin

Dry, itchy skin is a common issue for pets during winter, exacerbated by low humidity and exposure to indoor heating. Dr. Nefedova recommends:

✔️ Moisturising Solutions: Use pet-safe moisturising shampoos and conditioners to replenish lost moisture and soothe dry, flaky skin.

✔️ Regular Brushing: Brushing your pet's coat regularly helps distribute natural oils and prevents matting, reducing the risk of dry skin.

✔️ Misting Reptiles: Reptiles can also become dehydrated, and the cold winter air can be quite dry depending on your location. Mist your reptile or soak them in lukewarm water a few times a week to provide moisture and keep them hydrated.

Creating Comfortable Indoor Living Spaces

No matter their age, consider allowing your pet to sleep indoors during winter. 

Dogs wearing DGG / Wriggley Diggley
products from Petstock Australia
Not only will they be more comfortable, but they will use less energy to maintain their body temperature. 

Chilly nights can make the joints of pets suffering from arthritis more painful and breathing cold air can exacerbate respiratory problems such as bronchitis or collapsed trachea.

✔️ Warm Sleeping Areas: Provide pets with comfortable bedding and warm sleeping areas indoors to shield them from cold temperatures and drafts.

✔️ Senior Pet Care: Senior pets, in particular, may require extra warmth and comfort during winter. Soft, orthopaedic bedding can help alleviate joint pain and discomfort in elderly pets.

✔️ Cage and Shelter Placements: Position bird cages away from draughty windows and doors to prevent cold air from chilling your feathered friends. Use cage covers at night to provide additional insulation and warmth. Also, ensure small animal enclosures are insulated and draft-free, providing extra bedding for warmth. Consider moving outdoor enclosures indoors during extreme cold spells.

✔️ Reptile Equipment: The start of winter is a good time to make sure your heating equipment is functioning well. Do not forget to also check the ultraviolet (UV) light source which is necessary for reptiles to synthesise enough vitamin D to stay healthy.

✔️ Hydration: Ensure pets have access to fresh water at all times, especially crucial during winter when indoor heating can lead to dehydration. For cats, incorporating wet food into their diet helps increase water intake.

✔️ Hydration while travelling: Leptospirosis, contracted by dogs drinking or swimming in contaminated water, can lead to severe illness or fatality, with symptoms including fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, and weakness. To mitigate risks, carry a fresh water bottle and bowl during outdoor excursions to keep pets hydrated and safeguard against harmful diseases.

Pet-Proofing Your Home

Given that 27% of pet owners admit to leaving the heating on specifically for their four-legged friends [1], it's imperative to take proactive measures to pet-proof your home and ensure their safety.

Candle Safety: Store lit candles away from pets' reach to prevent burns and fire hazards.

✔️ Wood Heater Safety: Use a safety screen or guard with indoor wood heaters to protect pets from burns and prevent accidents.

✔️ Gas Heater Maintenance: Have gas heaters serviced at the start of the season to detect leaks and prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

[1] RSPCA WA (2023)


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