by Jean Hofve, DVM
Winter vs. Summer Pet Care Tips
It's that crazy time of year here in Boulder, Colorado...a balmy summer
temperature one day, and a biting winter freeze the next. We recently had a
record high and a record low just three days apart! While you may be in a more
temperate climate, it's still a good time to strategize on behalf of our pets in
terms of preparing for the next season.
While summer and winter are worlds apart in many ways, they also have quite a
few things in common. For example, pets everywhere may prefer to stay indoors in
extremes of either hot or cold. And even though the term "holiday" typically
brings to mind jingle bells and colorful lights, summer and fall also have their
share of potentially perilous events! A little planning will go a long way
toward making the whole year safe and happy for both two- and four-footed family
Here's a little summary to remind you about the most important differences
and similarities between winter and summer pet care:
Skin and Coat Care
Most dogs and cats grow a thicker winter coat that needs extra care to
prevent matting. Dogs with ever-growing coats should be left extra-furry
for the cold months.
The winter coat sheds out, but the lighter summer coat still
needs its regular attention. Matted coats can damage skin and attract
flies. Many pets enjoy a “close shave” during hot summer months.
Extra omega-3 fatty acids from fish or cod liver oil will help skin and
coat stay healthy.
Daily vitamins and antioxidants help maintain an active
Consider using sweaters and coats for thin-coated breeds.
Don't forget sunscreen for light-colored pets, especially around the
face and ears (but be careful not to get it in the eyes!)
Use booties or paw balm to protect from cold and prevent painful
ice balls that collect between toes.
Hot pavement can cause serious burns to unprotected paws; use boots or
Remember to wipe paws clean of road chemicals (check tummy fur,
Check all over for burs and foxtails that can cause pierce skin and
cause big trauma.
That daily walk is still important, no matter what the weather.
Exercise in early morning or cooler evening hours to prevent
The Great Indoors
Pets may spend more time indoors in both extremely cold and extremely
hot weather. Indoor "enrichment" videos or calming music; treat-dispensing
and other fun toys; climbing trees for cats; novel objects; and regular
training or play sessions will keep your indoor pet emotionally as well
as physically healthy.
A dry, wind-resistant shelter and freeze-proof water bowl must always
A shady retreat and plenty of fresh, cool water are vital for outdoor
If your pet remains active in winter, more calories will be needed in
cold weather to fuel hard-working muscles.
If your pet lives to snooze in the shade, reduce food intake to
maintain a healthy weight.
Provide a quiet retreat for pets, and keep them away from kitchen
From fireworks to trick-or-treaters, that safe space is still
Air travel can be easier with pets during winter. In very hot weather,
most airlines will not fly pets during the day. Car travel happens
year-round; make sure your pet is secure in a harness or carrier. For
errands around town, though, it's best to leave Rover at home.
Stress can happen at any time of year. Good nutrition and regular
exercise give pets the foundation for handling unexpected events; the
addition of flower essences and herbs can be even more helpful.
Young and Old
Young puppies and kittens, as well as elderly animals, are more
susceptible to temperature extremes, as well as to stress and dietary
“indiscretions.” Take extra care to make sure they stay comfortable.
Cats and dogs can get the flu, but it isn't necessarily seasonal. In
fact, it's more often related to crowded and stressful situations,
such as in kennels and catteries. Dogs are more likely to be exposed to
canine influenza during the warmer months, when they're out socializing at
the dog park or on walks and hikes. There is a vaccine for canine flu, but
it's controversial; a healthy immune system is still the best defense
against stress and disease.
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The articles and information in the Holistic Healthcare Library are presented for
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The information is not intended to be a substitute for visits to your local veterinarian.
Instead, the content offers the reader information and opinions written by our staff,
guest authors, and/or veterinarians concerning animal health issues and animal care