As much as we might love the onset of winter, the seasonal changes can make life a little trickier for animals, especially senior pets. The key is to be prepared so that, whatever the weather, you can provide a nurturing home environment for your cat or dog.
Older pets find it harder to regulate their temperature. For this reason it is vital to put their beds somewhere safe and warm as the nights draw in and the frost appears. Somewhere away from exterior doors and drafts will be ideal. It’s also important to ensure their bedding is made of a breathable, insulating material that supports their weight fully. On the flip side, we tend to whack the heating up indoors once the cold weather starts and your pet may struggle with the high-speed temperature changes from outside to inside. Certain breeds have thermoregulatory issues anyway: Huskies, Pugs and Staffies are particularly susceptible to heat. If your pet is looking pale or flustered as a result of overheating then gently bring their temperature down with a cooling pad and plenty of water.
Because it is harder for older pets to fight infection it is more important than ever that you keep them clean. In rainy weather they are likely to come in rather damp after walks or outings. It is very important to make sure they are thoroughly dried in a timely manner rather than being left to air-dry, especially if they have floppy ears. Wet, warm places with little air circulation become breeding grounds for bacteria and mites.
A dog can’t tell you specifically what they want or need, just that they need something. Often a nagging whine or beg is interpreted as a request for a snack when, in reality, they are thirsty. Though they may not be exercising like they used to it is important to make sure your pet has plenty of water, especially when the heating is on. It might be worth investing in a drinking fountain or adding a little warm water to your dog’s food to make a tasty “gravy”. This will not only sneak more fluids into their diet but will also encourage them to eat if old age is affecting their appetite.
The colder weather can be tougher on old muscles and joints and going from a heated house to the chilly outdoors can make exercising problematic. Make sure that you walk your dog close enough to home or the car that you can get them to a warm, comforting environment quickly should they sustain an injury.