Shoutout to Jayson Goetz for the guest post, and to my little Willow for being so photogenic.
As warm days and summer sunshine are replaced with cool breezes, winter skies, and colorful leaves, you’ll be swapping out your shorts for sweaters, breaking out the holiday dishes, and cranking up the temperature. While you’re getting ready for colder weather in your home, be sure you include your pet. Just as people need a little preparation for fall and winter, pets need some prep too. Luckily, there’s plenty of things you can do to keep your dog or cat happy and healthy year-round. Here are a few holistic tips to keep Fido comfy during the colder months.
Switch up feeding times and walks
Colder weather also means less sunlight, which might mean gearing up for a few more night walks with your dog. Consider switching up your pup’s food and walking schedule to catch the last rays of sunshine (and to let you sleep in a little). If you plan on changing her routine, be aware that most pets are sensitive to their feeding and walk schedules. Move your walks up 15 minutes in time to acclimate your dog to the new schedule. If your dog or cat gets lonely with back-to-school, consider buying or switching out toys, or adding a little extra playtime every day. For cats, you might even consider making a few food puzzle toys to keep him occupied while you’re at work.
Beware of chocolate — and add a little extra
Holidays bring along the added risk of your pet eating something they probably shouldn’t have. High-fat foods can cause diarrhea and other more serious stomach problems. Whether you’re bringing back a haul from trick-or-treating or cooking Thanksgiving feast, you’ll want to make sure your pet isn’t also sampling your food. Apples, grapes, chocolate, and garlic are especially toxic.
Some pets may need a little extra in their bowl every day to regulate their body temperature and acclimate to the cooler weather. If your dog is particularly physically active, you might up his kibble just a little to get him through the winter. You can even add a little pumpkin to your pup’s diet for an extra seasonal treat, but be sure to consult your vet for exactly what your dog or cat will need.
Keep your pet well groomed
As temperatures drop, you’ll notice your dog or cat shedding more and more, making way for their seasonal coat. As your pet’s coat sheds, you’ll want to make sure you’re keeping up with his grooming, especially if he has long hair. A new coat will help your pet better regulate his body temperature, but you’ll want to make sure you brush him regularly to prevent mats (and with mats, potential skin infections). Don’t let up on your dog or cat’s flea and tick care, either–prevent fleas in the spring by continuing treatment in the fall.
Watch out for mushrooms and other fall plants
You’ll see less fall foliage as the months move from November to December, but be wary of certain plants in bloom in the cold damp months, especially fungi. Keep an eye on your pet when hiking in the woods or even letting her roam around the garden–plants such as chrysanthemums, autumn crocus and clematis are all deadly to pets. Dogs especially should be prevented from consuming mushrooms on their walks. Though your best friend is an ace at sniffing out new smells, she won’t be able to tell the difference between a toxic or non-toxic mushroom or plant.
Build your pet an outdoor shelter, or cozy up their bed
Brr! If you’re saving a little on your heating costs by wearing a sweater or two instead of cranking the heat, don’t exclude your dog or cat. If you’ve got an indoor-outdoor cat, consider buying or building a new outdoor shelter for kitty. An outdoor retreat will help your cat stay cozy even while she’s roaming the wilderness (or just the neighborhood). For dogs and indoor cats, consider switching out their bed and bedding for warmer fabrics and deep insulation to keep them cozy.
Keep an eye out for snakes and snakebites
Snakes go into hibernation in autumn, making much more likely to strike than other times of the year. Because they’re less mobile, it’s more likely a curious cat or dog will nose their way toward a sleepy (and more aggressive) snake. Know what species are in your area and be cautious when walking your pet around areas they’re likely to inhabit.
Upgrade your pet’s wardrobe
Let’s face it, we all could use a wardrobe overhaul by the time winter rolls around. When the only walk is an icy, rainy walk, short hair dogs will often be left shivering. Make him or her a little more comfortable with a new sweater, and a raincoat for sleeting days. Just don’t forget to buy your pet a costume for Halloween (or a Santa sweater for the holidays).