With winter having arrived, it’s safe to say that most of us will do anything to avoid being cold. We already know that this flu season is being reported as even bigger than most in recent memory, but what about our pets? What issues face our fluffy/feathered/scaled friends?

Older dogs (>7 years old) are the animals that visit clinics most over the winter. The drastic change in weather often leads to the worsening of symptoms of osteoarthritis. These particular cases are often very well masked by our beloved pets and can appear as “a little stiff” or “slow to get up”. Getting on top of it early is a fantastic way to give your older pets a longer, happier life. If you’re noticing symptoms or notice any slower movements when participating in normal activities, please consider chatting to us about what you can do to help your friends.

Shorter/ lighter coat dogs often lose weight over winter, as there is a much higher demand for energy to keep themselves warm. While breeds like Husky, Malamute, Maremma ect, were originally bred for colder environments, most other breeds are not so well adapted. Ensuring that they have a warm place to stay overnight is crucial, whether this is a shelter outside with warm bedding, or their own master bedroom with a king-sized bed with a goose feather down blanket, as long as they are warm to ensure weight is not being lost.

Any drop in weight is concerning, so if you are noticing this, please contact us. It may be as simple as improving the bedding arrangements and increasing the amount of food they have over these harsh months.

Cats can also be prone to arthritis but are very good at hiding it. Significantly reduced activity and reluctancy to jump on things are most commonly the first signs of arthritis. Being somewhat more cunning than dogs, cats often find their own warm places to spend their time, which can lead them to trouble. It pays to check under cars, in wheel wells and even in ute trays before travelling to ensure no cat has taken a nap while you weren’t looking.

It’s not just cats and dogs that people own as pets. Our feathered friends would also benefit from some changes to husbandry over winter. Warmth is important, so by providing some small, enclosed areas that are accessible is the way to go. Keeping the ground dry is also important to stop infections and damage to their feet. Lastly, consider slowly introducing some foods that are a bit richer in energy (be careful and only make introductions in slow portions).

Horses and other outside animals such as sheep, goats and cows also need some special consideration during these winter months. Horses are generally quite comfortable un-rugged in temperatures down to 5 degrees, especially if they have their winter coat. If they are older or not as good at keeping weight, they may need to be rugged more consistently. The most important thing for horses, and all other outside animals, is to have access to good shelter, either natural or manmade, and access to constant forage such as hay. Drinking water should be checked daily to ensure it is not frozen over.

Overall, these are a few easy points to follow for most animals. Avoiding extremes of cold and ensuring they have shelter, food and water is a great start. At Hartley Valley Vets, we are more than happy to talk to owners about their pets. Please call the reception team on 63552272 to book an appointment or call our afterhours line if you have an emergency.