We seem to be inundated on social media with stories from the States of dogs being locked in hot cars while their owners go shopping. These articles are all over Facebook, just the latest being the sad story of Waldo, who was found dead in his owner’s car from heat exhaustion, while she spent a whopping 13 hours in Walmart. Now I know the Walmart Martians are a breed unto themselves, but really, 13 hours? The insanity of this kind of cruelty is beyond me.
My point is, while it may be summer in the United States, we’ve just entered winter here in good old South Africa, and perhaps it’s a good idea to brush up on the do’s and don’ts of making sure our pets are warm enough.
In the Western Cape this weekend, we’re expecting high winds, an excessive amount of rain, freezing temperatures and a rather large amount of snow! “Batten down the hatches” weather for sure. But just think a moment. You’ve stocked up on firewood, gas and Old Brown Sherry. Im sure the pantry has oodles of Horlicks and hot chocolate. You wouldn’t even put your nose outside for fear of frostbite. So what about your pet? Do they live indoors or outdoors? If they’re outdoor dogs, are their kennels in a sheltered position and protected from the worst of the weather? Do they have blankets, pillows or heating panels?
Just because they have fur, that doesn’t automatically give them sufficient protection from extreme temperatures. Some breeds are better adapted for cold weather, so if you have a Husky, a St Bernard or a Newfoundland, they’re going to fare better than, for example, a Bulldog or a Staffie. It doesn’t take long, and most of the following suggestions are simple and plain common sense.
So just to make sure you’re doing the right thing, here’s our list of do’s and don’ts for a 4-paws winter
- DON’T leave your pet in the car for extended periods. Although they may be out of the elements, just as a car acts as an oven in summer, in winter it can trap cold air, effectively acting as a fridge.
- DO ensure your pet has adequate shelter. If your dog lives indoors, make sure their sleeping area is away from draughts, and preferably not on a cold tile floor – unless their beds are elevated. If your pets are very old or very young, only allow them outside for short periods of time.
- DON’T neglect your pet’s grooming needs. Keeping their coats clean, shiny and well brushed will aid in protection against the cold. It’s also not a good idea to bathe your dog in the middle of winter and then allow them outside without being completely dry first.
- DO check the pads of your pet’s paws. Skin that is red or inflamed, has little cracks or cuts can be painful and can lead to frostbite. Also check their tails and ears, and try to clean their paws off after a walk.
- DON’T give them the same freedom to run through or swim in vleis or rivers. As well as being extremely cold, water levels rise in winter and can flow more strongly and hide submerged objects.
- DO increase your pet’s daily food allowance if they are outside dogs as generally they will require more calories to burn to keep themselves warm and maintain their body temperature. Also ensure they have sufficient fresh drinking water. But also bear in mind that dogs who are less active in winter, possibly need less food. If you are unsure, check with your vet.
- This one is just common sense, DON’T allow your pet to roam off the leash or allow them out of your property. Thunderstorms can be frightening for pets and they might run away or get lost.
- DO invest in a jersey or jacket for smaller and/or shorthaired breeds. They will need the additional warmth. These are available from most pet stores and vet shops.
- DON’T leave your pets unattended in front of heaters or fireplaces, especially if you have more than 1 playful pup.
- DO check with your vet whether you need to increase doses of medication for certain conditions such as arthritis that can be affected by cold weather.
By following these easy guidelines you should be able to keep your furry friend warm, healthy and happy this winter.