Winter Wonderland

Brrrr, winter is upon us. For some small friends winter can be difficult to bear. With a few simple steps and precautions it is simple to make a winter easier on our small friends.

Every winter my small friend seems to “get older”. What can I do to help her out this year?
For our elderly small friends it is advised to pop into Small Friends Veterinary Hospital for a winter check up. Some small friends may suffer from arthritis which can make it difficult to get around during the colder months. The symptoms of arthritis and degenerative joint disease can usually be managed through the use of medication and changes to your small friend’s lifestyle. Conditions like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and hormonal imbalances can compromise a small friend’s ability to regulate their own body heat. By coming in and having a check up with Dr Matt or one of our other vets, they can discuss the management or treatment that best suits your small friend.

Gerald rugged up for winter

Does my small friend automatically adapt to winter weather conditions by growing a thicker coat?
Animals who are primarily outdoors do grow thicker coats to accommodate the lower temperatures of winter. Some breeds do this better than others. Even small friendsthat live exclusively inside all year may grow extra fur during the winter months. For this reason is it important to keep up your small friend’s regular grooming to prevent knots in their coat.

How can I help my small friend stay warm in the extreme temperatures we get here in Canberra?
There are lots of ways to help your small friend cope with the colder months.

Just like we enjoy wrapping up in a blanket so do our small friends. In fact, winter is just the time to splurge on your small friend and ensure they have some lovely thick soft bedding either where they sleep inside or if they are primarily outdoors, in their kennels. It is very important to make sure that their bedding (whether inside or outside) is raised up off this ground. This will ensure that they are not lying on the cold floor, and it will provide something to snuggle down into. In the wild small friends  will scratch and dig the ground to soften the soil and make a nice soft bed to bunker down in – this is difficult with tiles or carpet, so a nice bed is the way to go. Gerald always has a little dig of his bedding even before he lies down for the night, just to ensure it is nice and soft for him. It is important to check this bedding regularly to make sure it is dry and in good condition. Some small friends will have a nibble on their bedding and rather than wrapping around their outsides, it could dangerously be wrapping around their insides!! At Small Friends Veterinary Hospital we stock the Australian bedding products Snooza. Snooza make top-quality products which you may like for your small friend for winter.

Hot water bottles are also used by some owners of small friends. These can be a great option to pop under a small friend’s bed to provide a little extra warmth but it is imperative that you can insure your small friend’s safety when using a hot water bottle. Use a hot water bottle for your small friend just as you would for a child:

  • ensure you only fill your hot water bottle with warm NOT boiling water;
  • ensure that it is fastened tightly;
  • ensure the hot water bottle is covered so it cannot be directly against your small friends skin (perhaps wrap it in a towel); and
  • (one extra care point for our canine and feline friends) ensure that it cannot be chewed.

For our small friends that like to live al fresco it is important that they have access to shelter or a kennel that is at least, raised off the ground, out of the wind and water proof. If possible it is nice to provide some thick bedding for them to use in the winter. Just as for indoor small friends it is necessary to ensure that this bedding remains dry and in good condition.
It is also very important to ensure that our outdoor small friends always have access to fresh water. It is very easy in the very cold weeks of winter for your small friend’swater bowl to freeze over. Small friends still need to be hydrated even in the cold, so please check and refresh your small friend’s water daily.

Do our small friends need to wear extra layers when out and about in winter?
Very young and elderly small friends are vulnerable to the cold, so this is something that is very important. Providing a skivvy or coat when outdoors helps them to stay warm and reduces the stress on their body to produce its own heat. Skivvies and coats can be worn by all aged small friends though, not just to keep warm, but to look cool!

My cat loves to curl up on the central heating floor vents. Is it healthy for them to stay this warm?
The problem with floor vents is our small friends are very good at finding them and curling up to get warm but are not the best at knowing when to get off them. Some nasty burns are obtained from this exact problem. For this reason we recommend using plastic vent covers which allow the hot air to diffuse out but make it impossible for your small friends to lie directly on the vent. You could then provide a bed which can be left near the vent. This way your small friend is nice and warm but safe from burns.

In summer we never leave our dog in the car but in the winter he seems to enjoy the warmth. Is this safe?
The threat of a small friend overheating in a car is the same in summer and winter. By being out of the wind and air but in the beautiful Canberra winter sun, makes the conditions inside the car similar for summer and winter. Small friends should never be left unattended in vehicles, whatever the outdoor temperature.
Some small friends will curl up under a car in the winter months for warmth so before moving off please check under the car for your small friend. Cat owners should also be aware of cat’s habit of snuggling up in the car engine. After use the engine is obviously nice and warm and cats are attracted to this environment. If your cat has access to your garage it is important to check your car engine EVERY TIME before starting the car.

My small friend always seems to put on weight in winter. Why is this?
Just like us, animals are less inclined to be active in colder weather. This in conjunction with their body’s tendency to store fat during the colder months means that our small friend may put on weight. Remember that regular exercise is important all year round. In fact, if your small friend does suffer from arthritis, a little gentle exercise to keep the joints mobile may be just what is needed. This is something that could be discussed with Dr Matt or one of our other vets during your winter health check.

My dog hates the hair dryer so I find it difficult to get him dry in the winter months.
When washing our small friends it is important all year round that they dry properly. Leaving your small friend’s coat wet is the perfect environment for skin irritations to occur and may also lead to your small friend catching a chill. If you find it difficult perhaps winter is the time to seek the help of a professional dog washer or groomer. You might also benefit from using one of our super absorbent, ultra soft Fuzzyard Microfibre Towels.