Connecticut and the Northeast are known for many things, among them a long and unforgiving winter. While the necessity of preparing your home and car for the cold and snowy months is common knowledge, many of us overlook another important thing that needs extra attention during winter. Our pets. There are a variety of health concerns our furry companions face during the winter months, and not all of them are weather-related.
The cold months are a time for comfort food (hot lobster rolls anyone?), but they aren’t exactly ideal for your diet. Similarly, you should watch what your dog eats during the winter. Don’t give into the desire to feed them leftovers, and adjust their caloric intake for their reduced activity levels. It’s important to strike a careful balance, however - remove too much and you’ll deprive them of essential vitamins and nutrients. Ask a vet for guidance.
Stay In - Work Out
Exercising outdoors can be difficult during the winter, but that doesn’t mean you and your furry friend can’t get in a workout. Try walking them up and down the steps, or take them to a store that is pet-friendly. Not only will they get a chance to walk, but they might meet a friend - and you may too! Although going outside can be a pain, it’s still entirely possible to exercise indoors. Push-ups and sit-ups don’t require any special machinery or a gym membership. Neither does walking up and down steps with your critter. You can also take your critter companion to a store that allows pets, and walk them around the aisles for some exercise, and maybe even some socialization. Want to double up on the benefits? Mix feeding time with training time. Teach your dog a new trick or two, and use pieces of kibble as a reward each time they get it right.
Some dogs love being outside, even during the winter, and are bred to be out and about. For example, some breeds have double coats to fight the cold, or long legs to elevate them above the snow. However, many dogs are not built for such frigid duties. Smaller breeds that have to tramp through the snow get cold quicker than others, and wading through snow can tire them out as well. Also, most dogs don’t have the thick skin and thick fur to protect them from the cold. Make sure you keep an eye on them for signs of stress or discomfort. If you do take your dog outside for exercise or just a bathroom break, be vigilant of their paws, ears, and tail. These areas are the most sensitive to frostbite.
Additionally, the chemicals in many types of rock salt mixes, ice-melt, or de-icers used on driveways and sidewalks can be dangerous to a dog’s paws. Monitor their paws, as well as what they - and human guests - track into the house. Winter gear, like pet boots and jackets, can protect your pets. You can also use petroleum jelly to safeguard your dog’s feet, keeping them sealed and moisturized. However, this substance can also irritate dogs if they lick it, so confirm with your vet before using it.
Although Connecticut winters may make you want to curl up in front of the TV for months, don’t let the snow and cold get the best of you. Monitor your pet’s health, and your own, so that you can share many more winters together.
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