As the temperature drops, here are some important guidelines for protecting your pets from the cold weather. If your dog is an outdoor dog, provide proper housing. A doghouse should be dry and draft free. Your dog should have enough room to turn around and lie down comfortably, but be small enough to hold in body heat. The floor of the doghouse should be raised several inches off the ground. Also, the door should have a waterproof burlap or heavy plastic cover and be facing away from the wind.
Remember that calorie needs may increase in the winter for your outdoor dog as it is trying to stay warm and grow a thicker coat. Clean, thawed drinking water should always be available. Electric heated water bowls are available at several pet stores in the area.
Dog sweaters and booties are helpful for keeping small dogs and dogs with short hair warm during the winter. Remember that puppies, senior dogs and dogs with pre-existing conditions such as heart disease, are less able to maintain body heat and should be protected from the cold.
Cats should be kept indoors during freezing weather. Their thin ears are easily frostbitten. Outdoor cats often seek shelter under the hoods of warm cars and can be seriously injured or killed. To scare away cats before starting the engine, check your vehicle, slap your hand on the hood or honk the horn. Stay alert for cats being locked in sheds or outbuildings.
Does your pet have a strange odor around its head? It could be an ear infection. Signs of an ear infection include odor, shaking of the head, scratching at the ears and dark discharge in the ear. Breeds with 'heavy' ear flaps, such as cocker spaniels, are especially prone to ear problems, but any dog or cat could potentially get an ear infection. It is important to promptly treat ear infections, not just for the comfort of your pet, but to protect his or her hearing. Please ask about treating and preventing ear problems with your veterinarian.
Has your senior pet had his yearly checkup yet? It is important to remember that cats and dogs age more rapidly than we age. The average age for a cat is 13 to 15 years, for a dog the average age is 12 to 14 years (a little longer for smaller dogs, a little shorter for larger dogs.)
For the health of your senior pet, it is recommended to have yearly exams at your veterinarian's office. During these exams, the doctor will give your pet a thorough physical exam and may suggest lab work such as a urinalysis, blood work or x-rays. This lab work can show if there are invisible problems that are beginning, such as diabetes or heart or kidney disease.
With prevention, early detection and treatment, pets can continue to live long and happy lives well into their senior years. Make an appointment for a senior exam with one of our veterinarians. We would be happy to discuss any questions or problems you may be having with your senior pet such as arthritis, nutritional needs and even incontinence and dementia.