Friday, January 16, 2009

Winter Hazards

Winter weather brings special hazards for our four-legged companions. So many, in fact, that it requires a good deal of thought on the part of the owner to keep their dog or cat safe and healthy.

All cats should be indoors with lots of environmental enrichment but you'll notice in Winter that cats (and dogs) will sleep more and exercise less. This means that you will have to find ways to keep your four-legged companion more active. If it's extremely cold you're dog can't go out for extended periods of time - it's just too dangerous - but you can find games to play indoors. You can hide treats around the house and let your dog "find" them. And remember that all treats should be figured in with the amount of food your dog or cat eats so there's no weight gain. You can practice canine musical freestyle steps - put on some music and dance with your dog! Even my cat enjoys dance steps. You can start clicker training if you haven't already begun and teach your dog some new tricks. Your cat, too! Cats are certainly capable of doing the behaviors a dog can do and your cat will likely surprise you when you discover how smart she is! You can toss a toy for games of fetch and you can set up a mini-agility course indoors for your dog or cat. Yes, cats do agility, too!

If you have a small dog, he's going to lose body heat more rapidly than his larger cousins. He'll need a warm coat or sweater and time outdoors should be limited. Your dog can get frostbite, too.

If you're walking your dog on roads that are salted, or past a neighbor's salted driveway, be sure to clean his feet thoroughly as soon as you come home. You don't want him ingesting the salt when he licks his feet and you certainly want to get out the "snowballs" that will form between his toes. If you can get your dog accustomed to wearing dog booties on your walks it will be helpful in protecting his feet. Be careful of ice. If you slip and fall it's only too easy for your dog to slip his lead or pull it out of your hand. You may want to buy those slips-on with studs attached to go over your boots and help keep you from slipping.

On cold days, do not take your dog or cat in the car with you when you run errands. Leaving your pet in the car on a very cold day is as dangerous - potentially lethal - as leaving him in the car on a very hot day.

And at the end of the day, there's nothing better than a snuggle with you four-legged companion. Love and companionship and that all-important human-animal bond is what it's all about.