Top Tips To Keep Your Pet Healthy & Warm This Winter

Brrrr, the cold weather doesn’t just affect humans, our pets and horses definitely feel the cold too.

Many pet parents ask questions through our online consult service about how we can make our animals more comfortable when the temperature plummets.

When considering this we need to think about their physical health as well as their environment.

Read on for our top tips to help you ensure your pets and horses are not suffering this winter.

english bulldog in winter woolies

Rug Up And Keep Warm

One of the first things we need to do is to make sure our pets or horses are warm.

There are a few ways we can do this that include:

  • providing a warm winter coat
  • ensure housing is rain and draught-proof
  • keeping bedding off the ground
  • providing safe heating options such as heating pads and disks rather than electric blankets.

In our article on how to find the best winter coat for your pet,  you will find specifics on how to choose an appropriate coat for your dog or cat. It’s most important that your pet can move comfortably and there are no embellishments that they can potentially eat and get sick from!

Winning Glory all dressed up in winter rugs. Photo credit Rachel Ang

Here is Nelson sporting a super cosy winter coat. Photo: Tess Salmon

Turbo Maximus is very snuggly in his woollen jumper. Photo: Rachel Mahon

It’s Important To Keep Our Pets Active

Another important aspect of keeping our animals happy is to keep them active. Like the old adage says

 If you don’t use it – you’ll lose it

Those cold winter days can make our animals seize up and become really quite painful. For the most part, it’s vitally important that we keep them moving. Although it’s always best to check with a vet to make sure that there isn’t something more sinister at play that could mean exercise is contradicted.

It really doesn’t matter what type of exercise we do with our animals. It could be as simple as taking a quiet stroll around the neighbourhood for our dogs and horses or even encouraging our cat to play “fishing”.

Movement helps increase the blood circulation flowing and keeps joints mobile.

keep pets active infographic

When we restrict exercise for our pets, joints seize up and muscles weaken. The repercussion of this is that there just isn’t support for bones and the end result is pain.

Nobody wants our pets or horses to be suffering from pain.

Another important benefit of keeping active is your pet is less inclined to put on weight.

Carrying a few extra kilograms puts a lot of extra strain on the body. Again, this causes pain.

It’s very easy for our pets and horses to gain weight over winter, especially if we aren’t keeping a close eye on them.

Naturally, when the weather is bad, we may struggle to get our animals out and about for exercise. It’s therefore important to reduce the food we feed so that they don’t get fat.

Check out our article for tips on assessing whether your pet needs to lose weight.

Exercise Tips For Dogs And Cats

To assist our animals to get more active (and hey, we can do this ourselves too) you can try these tips:

    1. before starting exercise consider a warm-up period. You can use a heating pad to apply heat to any arthritic painful areas to help loosen any stiffness (hips, stifle and elbows are common in dogs and cats)
    2. start with a short walk – even if it’s just to go to the mailbox with your dog, or try a game like the fishing rod with your cat
    3. if that’s too much or a bit too painful you can try some passive movement by lifting and moving a leg to get them moving
    4. if you have access to a warm swimming pool or water treadmill, this can be useful for those animals that struggle with weight-bearing

Podcast: Dr leigh Discusses Keeping Pets Healthy In Winter

Medications And Supplements To Keep Our Pets Pain-free

While we don’t necessarily recommend jumping straight to medications to solve pain and flexibility issues for our pets and horses, for some animals it really is a good idea.

Signs Your Pet Is Struggling With Arthritis

Some situations that you might notice that indicates that your pet or horse might be suffering and need extra medical help include:

  • struggling to get up
  • noticeable lameness that when you attempt to move the area they are very uncomfortable
  • starting to avoid going to the toilet if there are stairs or if they need to climb into a toilet tray
  • pain during urination or defaecation
  • attempting to bite or kick if you touch or manipulate a certain area
  • reluctance to pick up a leg (horse)

This is by far not a complete list, but if you notice any of these symptoms it is wise to discuss with your vet or one of our vets the potential for medications.

Medications And Supplements That Help Improve Mobility

Anti-inflammatory medications can assist in getting them mobile by removing that pain barrier.

While there are other medications that are only available via veterinary prescription such as Pentosan and these may help some animals.

If your pet is only showing subtle signs of discomfort, or you would like to help them and prevent issues from developing, there are plenty of supplements on the market.

The main thing to remember with supplements is that the vast majority have never had any trials to test whether they work.

For this reason, it’s always a good idea to discuss with a vet what you should use.

We now have plenty of evidence that supplements that contain green-lipped muscle and or omega 3 oils derived from fish-based products can be really useful to keep our pets a lot more mobile in winter.

These supplements are available for all our pets and horses and can be in liquid, powder, or tablet/capsule form.

These supplements assist with not only pain relief but also improve the integrity of the joint fluid making them more lubricated….think of it like giving your car oil to improve the way the pistons move!

Keeping Our Pets Warm & Healthy In Winter

Keeping pets warm in winter is common sense. If we feel the cold, it’s highly likely that our pets or horses are too.

If we are stiff and sore, we show similar signs as our pets do…so keep an eye open.

There are lots of ways we can keep our pets happy and healthy in winter, share below what has worked for you before!