Winter is here and so is the cold! Here are some top tips to keep your older pets comfortable and happy this winter.
- Older animals feel the cold more, this is because they cannot regulate their temperature as well as younger animals. Helping them keep warm can be done by using big cosy beds and plenty of heat sources such as heat pads or by putting the bed near a radiator or the fire. Make sure that they are not getting too hot (especially if you are using a heat pad in their bed – which isn’t recommended, but if you do,make sure it’s no warmer than body heat or it could lead to burns).
For your older dog, on walks you can put a jumper or coat on them to help them stay warm. For your older cat, even if they usually go out to toilet they may be less willing when it’s cold outside.Instead, maybe put more litter trays inside so they do not feel forced to go outside in this weather! Be aware that if they do go outside, they may be hiding near the car engine to keep warm – always check before starting the car. The warmth not only keeps them more comfortable but helps their body fight off any infections and reduces joint pain and muscle stiffness (which is very common throughoutwinter in older pets).
- A special diet. Our senior pets cannot burn calories like they used to! A senior diet gives them everything they need including extra nutritional supplements in a tasty form but with less calories. Putting on weight at this stage can be detrimental, causing increased pressure on joints and increased risk of other conditions such as diabetes mellitus, urinary problems, heart and lung disease to name a few.
At Christmas time it can be very difficult not to give your pets titbits from the table, but it is important that you put their health first and really reduce the treats.
- Christmas is a time of great anxiety. Christmas is already a stressful time of year for our pets, with new people, decorations and a general change of routine. Ourolder pets are less able to cope with these stresses and this can lead them to become more clingy or hiding more.
To tackle this, keep the floors clear of clutter (they often cannot see very well and slipping on wrapping paper or toys can give them a shock), have smaller more frequent walks to break up the day, allow them to have space away from people so they can escape if everything is too much and try to keep your routine as consistent as possible so they know what to expect.
- Stock up on medication.Most of the time our older pets are on medication, make sure you have plenty of this so you don’t run out through the busy Christmas period. Perhaps come in a couple of weeks before to get a winter check-up and stock up.
- Toxic Christmas plants. When older, cats can develop a condition similar to Alzheimer’s in humans. This means they may be more likely to chew on plants around the house so you need to be aware if any of the seasonal plants you have around may cause harm. Mistletoe, lilies, holly, ivy and Christmas roses among others are all potentially toxic to our pets. The best way to avoid your pet getting sick from these is by not having them in the house.Failing that keep them up high where your cat cannot get to them and if any leaves fall off pick them up before your pets get to them.
- Toxic Christmas foods. Even if you do not intend to give human foods to your pet, it can be easy to drop something in the kitchen when putting together a big family meal or forget to pick up that sweet you just unwrapped. Some foods to be particularly careful of are chocolate, Christmas cake or pudding (the raisins in them are toxic), nuts, alcohol and sugar free sweets (the sweetener is often the poisonous xylitol). Hopefully, having seen that these are dangerous to our pets, it will ring an alarm bell if you drop or unwrap any of these so you canavoidany poisoning before it starts.
We hope that this gives you a good starting point this winter to give your older pets a great time. If you have any concerns or would like any further advice about anything in this blog by all means bring your pet in or give us a call.