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A guide on keeping your pets safe from the chills

Winter can bring coughs and sneezes for your pets. Keep them warm, hydrated and active

Senior dogs and cats require particular attention in winter. Photo: Unsplash
Senior dogs and cats require particular attention in winter. Photo: Unsplash

Today, two dogs came into my clinic sneezing, coughing, unwilling to eat. This typically signals the beginning of winter. Except for upper respiratory tract illnesses, winter is a pretty healthy season for pets in comparison to other times of the year.

Make sure you keep pets warm through this season to ward off respiratory tract infections. Even though your pet is covered in fur, it will still feel cold if the temperature is low enough. Therefore, you shouldn’t shave their coat in this season. Since floors often become chilly at night, provide warm bedding. Don’t feed them cold food like ice cream or give them cold water. Giving puppies and kittens a warm place to sleep at night is crucial since they cannot regulate their body temperatures well and are susceptible to feeling cold and becoming sick.

Avoid bathing your pet too frequently, or with cold water, in this season. Even one bath a month is sufficient. Whenever you bathe them in winter, be sure to dry them off completely and avoid taking them on a walk right away.

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Animals tend to shed a lot of fur at this time since they transition into their winter coats. So regular grooming is necessary to remove all loose fur. Their skin too dries out easily, so moisturising their paws and nose is vital to avoid cracked skin. For this, apply paw balm or petroleum jelly on their paws and nose. You can give them a coconut oil massage before bathing or add omega oil supplements to their diet to make sure their skin is kept moisturised as well.

Senior dogs and cats require particular attention in winter. Pets with arthritis tend to experience some degree of pain. Make sure they are kept warm and get their joint supplements regularly. If they are struggling to stand up, walk or climb on furniture, activities they could do previously with ease, you may need to see your veterinarian. That would be suggestive of arthritis pain, which calls for pain medication.

Winter requires care in dietary and hydration practices. While their need for calories does increase slightly to stay warm, overeating can result in obesity. Even in chilly weather, then, it’s important to keep a watchful eye on their weight and keep up their usual exercise. You can take them on walks during the sunnier hours. Make sure they get enough water; water consumption tends to decrease at this time and could have harmful effects, even leading to the development of bladder stones.

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Some pets could find Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations stressful. If you are hosting a party, make sure your pets have a haven to retreat to if there are too many guests. Keep loud sounds to a minimum and do not force your pets into costumes they are not comfortable in. Stick to their routine despite the festivities to minimise stress and confusion.

Pay close attention to the type of ornaments you are using to decorate your Christmas tree. Some of these may end up endangering your pet’s life, through choking. The best Christmas tree decorations are those that won’t break and shatter. If your pet is really inquisitive, paper ornaments may be safer.

Keep the gift boxes out of your cat’s reach and away from the tree if you have one that likes to explore. Fairy lights, cables and wires must all be inspected and placed in places that pets cannot reach. Nibbling on cables could lead to electrical injuries and burns. Use caution while using ribbons and tinsel, for these can be ingested readily. Wreaths and garlands need to be kept out of reach because plants like lilies, mistletoe and poinsettias are hazardous to animals.

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Food toxicities are common during winter festivities. Keep Christmas cakes and chocolates out of reach of pets. Ensure they don’t have access to alcoholic beverages or leftover food.

And you are all set for a wonderful celebration with your favourite furry family member.

Nameeta Nadkarni is a practising veterinary soft tissue surgeon and pet blogger from Mumbai.

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