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Winter vs. Summer Pet Care Tips

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 members.

Here's a little summary to remind you about the most important differences and similarities between winter and summer pet care:

Concern

Winter

Summer

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 lifestyle.

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!)

Paws

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 paw balm.

Remember to wipe paws clean of road chemicals (check tummy fur, too!)

Check all over for burs and foxtails that can cause pierce skin and cause big trauma.

Exercise

That daily walk is still important, no matter what the weather.

Exercise in early morning or cooler evening hours to prevent heatstroke.

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.

Outdoor Protection

A dry, wind-resistant shelter and freeze-proof water bowl must always be available.

A shady retreat and plenty of fresh, cool water are vital for outdoor pets.

Nutritional Changes

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.

Holiday Planning

Provide a quiet retreat for pets, and keep them away from kitchen temptations.

From fireworks to trick-or-treaters, that safe space is still important.

Traveling

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 Management

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.

Pet Flu?

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 informational purposes only and are not intended as an endorsement of any product. 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 products.

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