A Pet’s Guide to Winter

A Pet’s Guide to Winter

By: Doctor John Calhoun

Halloween is over, so that means we can expect the days to get shorter and colder temperatures to settle in for the next few months.  This is the time of year to make sure everything’s lined up to ensure that your critters are safe and well cared for during this upcoming assault of frigid air and days with less activity.

My family and I have to be winter-ready for our chickens, turkeys, cattle, horses, sheep, goats, plus our dogs and cats.  It’s always a big shift around our place because we get used to the relative ease of taking care of everyone during the summer.  Making sure the water doesn’t freeze, food is available and efficiently delivered, and providing warm spots during those sub-zero temperatures requires forethought and planning.  Our dogs want to be outside a lot of the time and we’ve got places for them to go inside when it’s needed, but the rest of the herd requires tank heaters and specified feeding areas so everyone can make it safely through the colder winter months.

Not everybody has these self induced problems, but winter does bring one thing for almost everybody, a decrease in activity.  Oftentimes, this leads to our furry little friends gaining weight over the winter which, in turn, often stays with the pet during the spring and summer months.  So, I think this a great time to check the weight and revisit your feeding habits.  The winter feedings can be reduced during the winter for most of the patients we see here at the clinic.  I think most “chunky” pets first cross that barrier after a long winter stuck inside.

It’s pretty common, and completely understandable, how animals gain weight because calorie burning activities are greatly reduced.  The amount of food consumed is often left the same and frequently increased.  It’s for these reasons that I suggest that you get an accurate weight on your pet right now, figure out how much (s)he is eating on a daily basis at this point in time, and then make a commitment to monitor weight and the amount of food (s)he eats.  Keeping your pet active during these months will also yield many positive results.  First, they’ll get to burn off some of that energy that can turn into otherwise destructive behaviors.  Second, it keeps them fit and healthier, in general.  The more active they are, the more food they can eat without gaining unwanted pounds.

So, here we are, at the beginning of the holiday season with our pets settling in for a long few months stuck inside. We should take this time to anticipate the joys of the next few months and to do the little things that are needed to make sure that our friends, big and small, emerge safe and healthy from a long, cold winter.