Winter in Philadelphia can be harsh, and it's essential to keep your furry friends happy and healthy in the cold months. Here are some tips to keep your cat and dog entertained, healthy, and active during the winter season:
Indoor Playtime: With temperatures plummeting, indoor playtime is an excellent way to keep your pets active and stimulated. Interactive toys like puzzle feeders, treat balls, and scratching posts can keep your cat occupied while chasing laser pointers or playing with feather wands. For dogs, indoor games like fetch, tug-of-war, and hide-and-seek can be fun activities.
Winter Wellness: All pets should be examined by a veterinarian at least once a year, with senior dogs and cats getting twice-a-year check ups. Cold weather can worsen some medical conditions like arthritis. Also consider some diseases, like infectious respiratory disease, are more common in winter months when more dogs socialize indoors or have higher rates of boarding.
Regular Exercise: Just because it's cold outside doesn't mean you should skip daily walks. Dogs need regular exercise to maintain their health and prevent boredom, so bundle up and take them for a walk. If it's too cold, take shorter walks during the day, or consider indoor exercise like fetch or playing in a safe, enclosed space.
Know the Limits: A pet's cold tolerance can vary based on size, coat length, body fat stores, activity level, and general health. Dogs and cats can also take a few weeks to acclimate to colder weather, just like people, so be careful and monitor your pet's tolerance for cold and adjust exposures accordingly. You may need to shorten walks outside during especially cold days or provide breaks in a warm space.
Elderly pets and those with arthritis may have more difficulty walking on snow or icy surfaces and are more prone to slipping and falling.
Paw Care: Snow and ice can injure or hurt feet. Salt can also be irritating to feet. Consider avoiding heavily salted areas, or use a boot or shoe to cover your dog's feet to keep them warm and dry. Make sure food covers are fit properly and don't trap moisture for long periods.
Consider wiping down feet, legs, and belly when coming inside if your dog may have walked through de-icing products like salt, antifreeze, or other chemicals. Encourage your neighbors to use pet-safe salt and de-icers when possible!
Interactive Treats: Treats are an excellent way to keep your pets entertained and stimulated during the winter season. Offer interactive puzzles, such as treat-dispensing balls or hiding treats around the house for your pets to find. For cats, consider using food puzzles that simulate hunting and foraging for their meals.
Winter Wear: Some dogs are more comfortable in a sweater or coat when it's cold outside, but keep in mind that wet clothes can actually make your dog colder.
Pets with health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and hormone imbalance (like Cushing's) may have more difficulty regulating body temperature and should avoid temperature extremes.
Snow Disorientation: Most dogs and cats navigate the world with scent, which can be obscured by snow and ice. Consider keeping cats indoors when it's snowy, and make sure all pets that go outside have a well-fit collar with identification and ideally a microchip.
Sleeping: Just like humans, dogs and cats prefer to sleep in a comfortable place and may change where they want to relax or sleep based on temperature. Give pets options to allow them to vary their sleeping place to adjust for temperature changes.
It's Warm Indoors: Keep dogs and cats inside when it's especially cold. While some coats or breeds may be more tolerant to cold temperatures, no pet should be left outside for long periods, especially in below-freezing temperatures.
Be Careful About Cars: Outdoor cats often find warm spaces to rest, such as under cars. Check under your car, bang on the hood, or even honk your horn before starting the engine to give any hiding cats the chance to get away and avoid injury.
Be Careful Indoors: Space heaters, fireplaces, and candles can cause injury to pets, and should be avoided or used only with direct supervision.
Frozen Water: Stay away from frozen ponds, lakes, or other water. You don't know if the ice will support your dog's weight, and if your dog breaks through, it could be deadly.
Be Prepared: Cold weather storms can cause power outages or unexpected periods of time isolated. Make sure your emergency/disaster kit includes enough food, water, and medications to keep your pet comfortable and safe for at least 5-7 days.
Winter in Philadelphia can be challenging for pet owners, but with proper care and attention, your pets can thrive during the colder months. Incorporating these activities into your pet's daily routine can help keep them happy, healthy, and entertained throughout the winter season.