Even though most parts of South Africa enjoy relatively warm days in winter, there are areas where it gets really cold and might even see some snow. Especially in these colder regions, pet owners have to take particular care of their companion animals to ensure that they are not cold, or even worse, suffer from hypothermia.
Here are eight valuable tips to prepare you and your pets for winter.
1. Sleep inside
If you don’t want to sleep outside in the cold, why let your pets sleep out in the cold? While some dogs are better equipped for harsh temperatures with a thick coat, others are really not meant to be outside in the cold. And even if your dog has a thick coat, think of his paws, nose and ears that don’t have the thick coat cover.
Rather let your pets sleep inside the house where you can keep an eye on them. Whether it is a dog, cat or other furry pet, ensure that his bed is in a warm room free from any drafts.
2. Warm, cosy bed
The smaller your dog and the shorter his coat, the more protection he needs from the cold. Make sure that his bed is warm and cosy. See the ‘Sweet Dreams’ article in the April 2019 edition of Animaltalk for more information on what his bed should look like. In general, cats need more heat to stay warm and therefore a cave-type bed is ideal for them. This way they stay warmer and can hide away as well. Don’t forget a blanket under which your pet can snuggle. The ideal is to have more than one blanket for each pet, so that you can wash them regularly and always have an extra blanket available.
It goes without saying that a dog with a long coat should not be trimmed to a summer cut during the winter months. Dogs need their coats and will suffer from the cold temperatures. If you make use of a professional groomer, ensure that they understand that you prefer a winter trim.
4. Sweaters for dogs
Unless you have a cat with no hair, you will most probably not get your cat to wear a sweater and be happy about it. Cats in general just don’t do any form of clothing.
A dog, on the other hand, will appreciate a sweater when it is cold, especially if he has a short coat. But don’t force your dog to wear any restrictive or ‘human’ clothing or wear any kind of jacket if he doesn’t want to. Also, don’t ‘dress’ your dog and then expect him to stay unsupervised outside in the cold for long periods. It is dangerous – he can either get entangled, or his jacket can become wet, which might cause him to be even colder.
5. Wearing boots
If you live in a really cold area with regular frost or even snow, and your pet has to go outside for whatever reason, you can get him a set of boots. Keep in mind that you should give him time to get used to wearing them inside the house before you venture out in the cold. Buy the right size for your dog’s paws and make sure the boots are not too tight.
6. Drinking water
Make sure there is enough drinking water for your pets inside the house. Ideally, have multiple bowls. Outside bowls should be filled with clean, fresh water in the morning, as it may get too cold or even freeze overnight.
7. Toys for playing inside
In winter, we tend to snuggle under the blankets and totally abandon our activity routines, such as a walk in the park, especially if it is cold outside. You can still be active by providing your dog with toys that he can play with inside the house, or play games such as hide-and-seek with him.
8. Cage covers
Pets who spend some of their time in cages, like birds, hamsters and rats, should also get protection against the cold. Move the cage to a warmer room, free from any drafts, and cover the cage at night. This will help them stay warm.
Ultimately, it is your responsibility as pet owner to ensure that your pet is kept warm during the winter months. Whether you allow your pets to sleep with you in your bed or not, make sure they are warm, comfortable and protected from the elements, and don’t let them sleep outside.