For us humans, getting prepared for the changing seasons is usually as simple as adding or subtracting a few layers of clothing. But for pets, things can be a little more complex.
Unless you live in a stable climate, new seasons bring new challenges for your furry friends — and new responsibilities for you, their owners. Here are some simple pet care tips to make sure your pet is prepared for every season.
Fuzzy coats and boots aren’t just for dogs with a taste for fashion. A jacket might be necessary depending on a dog’s age, size, breed and fur type.
I spoke with pet expert Ashley Jacobs of Sitting for a Cause, and she said one of her most useful pet care tips for cold climates is to wipe down animals’ paws after they’ve been outside, removing any traces of antifreeze or other harmful chemicals.
A dog that spends hours outside should have the option of a warm shelter with raised floors and bedding. If that’s not feasible, make sure to limit unmonitored outdoor activity. Pet expert Conrad Ross said in an email that many outdoor cats seek a car hood to warm up when it’s cold. When the car starts, they can become trapped. Always double-check your car for any stray kitties.
Winter also brings holiday travel, parties and opportunities for pets to gorge on human food. Keeping table scraps away from your animal is crucial to maintaining their healthy weight — and avoiding accidental poisoning from foods that are toxic to your dog, like grapes, onions and garlic.
As the weather heats up, you’ll probably start letting your pets outside more. Before doing so, examine their tags to see that your contact information is clearly visible in case they get lost. A microchipped animal also has a greater chance of being returned if it runs out.
Spring cleaning can also be extended to pets. Wash their bedding, toys, bowls and other items. If you’re willing to get on their bad side for a few days, you may even consider giving them a bath.
Extreme heat can kill animals in the summer, but owners can prevent tragedy with a few simple practices. Jacobs recommends early-morning or evening walks when temperatures have dipped, and she supplies her dog with an outdoor cooling pad.
Ross said your animal might need sunblock if it’s outside often. Pets can get burnt anywhere, “especially their noses, lips and any areas where they don’t have much fur.”
Each animal reacts to summer differently. Some are bred for warmer climates, while others heat up faster. Signs of dehydration include panting unnecessarily, frequently sitting down during walks or drooling.
The change from summer to fall brings a new enemy for pets: fleas and ticks. Deer ticks can cause Lyme disease, and fleas are a major nuisance to remove once they’re inside the home. Proper flea and tick prevention usually includes additional medicine for both cats and dogs. Ask your vet for recommendations.
The more time your pet spends outside, the higher the chance it has of contracting fleas. However, even indoor animals like cats can benefit from a flea collar.
Check your animal’s fur regularly for fleas. If you find one, immediately treat your pet to a flea shampoo, and wash any fabric it’s had contact with. You can also spray areas with flea repellent to deter future attacks.