Winter vs. Summer Pet Care Tips
Written by: Only Natural Pet Team
Changing with the Season
Weather in Boulder, Colorado (where Only Natural Pet is located) can fluctuate quite a bit: a balmy summer temperature one day, only to be followed by a biting winter freeze the next. But no matter where you are, from a more temperate climate to one of long winters, it's always a good time to develop a strategy 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 our pets. 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 (like 4th of July fireworks!). A little planning will go a long way toward making the whole year safe and happy for both two- and four-legged family members.
Winter vs. Summer Pet Care
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
Both dogs and cats grow a thicker coat in winter months and shed out in summer months. The thicker winter coat needs some extra care to prevent matting, but it's important to let your pet grow our there coat for some extra warmth. Summer coats also need regular attention prevent matting, which can cause skin damage and attract flies and encourage hot spots. Many pets enjoy a shorter coat during the hot summer months, but make sure any intensive grooming is done by a professional.
Baths can be a great way to freshen up your pet's coat, but be aware of the temperature and make sure your pet can dry comfortably in a warm environment. Never take your pet outside into the cold while their coat is still wet. If it's too cold for a bath, try a freshening spray or wipe for in-between baths.
If your pet has a single or light coat, consider a winter jacket. Light coat dogs can get especially cold during winter walks, but you don't want to have to choose between comfort and exercise (more on exercise below).
If your pet has lighter skin, especially on their nose and ears, and is out in the sun a lot during the summer, consider a pet safe sunscreen. This isn't necessary during the shorter days of winter, plus your pet probably isn't outside as much during those months.
Adding omega-3 essential fatty acids to your pet's diet, especially fish oil from wild caught sources, is important for a healthy coat year round. This not only prevents shedding and flaking, but supports a glossy, shiny coat.
Some grooming with a brush or comb should be done year. This is not only a great bonding opportunity for you and your pet, but also cuts down on shedding and encourages a healthy coat. Make sure you select the correct grooming tools for your pet's coat type.
The biggest difference between winter and summer paw care, especially for dogs, is the temperature of the surface. Winter ice and snow can be bitter cold for your dog and painful ice balls can collect between their toes and pads. Use a natural, wax based balm or booties to protect your pet's paws.
Hot pavement can be the biggest problem during hot summer months, especially asphalt which absorbs heat and can stay hot through the whole day. The best course of action is to avoid asphalt surfaces when you can and stick to grass or dirt trails. If you can't avoid them, a pair of boots will help prevent burns.
Summer months also bring burrs, thorns and foxtails. Avoid undergrowth and brush with your pet. If they've been out running through it, check their paws and coats for any foreign objects that might be causing discomfort. Booties can protect dogs that are tromping through the brush.
Both winter and summer have environmental chemicals to deal with, but they come in different forms. During the winter months, watch out for ice melters, which can be made of chemicals dangerous to pets. If you're using them, try to find a pet safe version if possible. When you come in from winter walks, make sure you wipe off your pet's paws to remove any ice melt residue that might have collected.
Summer months are accompanied by chemical fertilizers and pesticides. When treating your own lawn, try to use a natural solution when you can. When you're walking your pet, notice areas that have recently been treated and avoid those. Dogs and cats love to chomp on grass during the summer, so implementing a detox regimin can be helpful, especially during the summer.
Some paw and nail care is essential year round. Make sure your pet's nails are kept trimmed to prevent snags and breaks. Remember there is a quick on both dogs and cats that can bleed if you clip it. If you're uncertain how to trim your pet's nails, or can't keep them calm when you do, it's best to have this done by a professional. Cats will handle most of their nail care if they have a durable scratcher or cat furniture their allowed to scratch.
Caring and moisturizing cracked and chapped paw pads should happen year round. Use a natural balm that is safe if your pet licks some of it off after application.
Exercise is essential year round, but it takes on different forms in the winter and the summer.
For dogs, long summer walks are always a great option. These offer plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation. And when the weather is nice, you won't have to think twice about heading outside. Avoid the heat of mid-day with your dog to prevent overheating and hot surfaces. Unfortunately, air quality warnings are synonymous with summer heat in many cities, so be aware that your pet is breathing in that air as well.
Some cats like being outside in the summer too, especially indoor/outdoor cats. Make sure you have a great breakaway collar with the appropriate contact information for the adventurous cats.
Although fleas live year round, it's much easier for your dog or cat to pick them up when they're walking around outside in the summer. Natural flea & tick care is must for both your dog, cat, house and yard.
Winter exercise takes on a whole different dimension with its short days and cold temperatures. Most of the exercise your pet gets will be indoors, so make sure you have plenty of toys. Find what your pet likes and see if you can make it indoor friendly, for example: plush balls instead of tennis balls. Cats love chase toys that they have to "hunt" and can offer endless exercise and entertainment.
Exercise is essential, no matter what season. However, this is easier said than done. Since your pet will naturally be more active during some times of the year than others, it's important to monitor their weight and try to keep it as consistent as possible. As your pet gets older, it's harder to lose those winter pounds, so look for a high quality, low carb diet to help keep your pet lean. Conversely, if your pet is super-active, make sure to balance their meals to compensate for extra calories burned.
Holiday Stress, Travel & Safety
Winter and summer holidays can have equal but different challenges for our pets. Most notably, summer holidays are usually loud and winter holidays have foods that can be dangerous for our pets.
During the summer holidays, especially the fireworks, it's important to protect your pet and manage their stress. In this regard, fireworks can be handled a lot like thunderstorms: manage stress and prevent your pet from getting startled and running away.
Winter holidays can bring a lot of foods, especially sweets, that are dangerous for pets. Chocolate is very dangerous for dogs and cats, so make sure you keep these out of reach. Not all table scraps are off limits, and sharing some Thanksgiving turkey with your pet, or making some bone broth from the carcass, can offer a healthy treat. However, make sure you keep track of how much extra food your pet gets and avoid bones or anything that can cause a choking hazard.
The biggest similarity between winter and summer holidays is stress management. Our pets are perceptive to changes in our routines and personalities and can quickly pick up on our stress. As you're preparing for any holiday, whether you're hosting or traveling, make sure you stay calm. It can even help to talk to your pet as you prepare and let them know what's happening.
For dogs and cats that are naturally more anxious, supplements and holistic remedies can be beneficial. CBD has been showing a lot of success for relieving stress and anxiety in dogs and cats.
Overall Health & Immune Support
Although we usually associate the flu with winter time (dogs & cats can get their own types of flu), COVID-19 is helping us realize that immune support is important year round. Make sure your feeding a healthy, natural diet, and using beneficial supplements, like daily multi-vitamins, antioxidants, and probiotics.
- Winter and Holiday Planning for You and Your Pet
- Daily Supplements for Healthy Companions
- 6 Tips to Get Your Dog Ready for Winter
- Top 10 Summer Safety Tips for Pets