Can you believe we are already into winter?! Somehow this season always seems to sneak up on us, often leaving little time to properly prepare ourselves, and our pets, for the frigid winter months. Here are some quick and easy tips to help make the winter seem less bleak and more bearable for us all!
Change in Water/Feed needs
Your horse needs more water in the winter! The goal should always be to maximize the amount your horse drinks to help prevent dehydration and colic. Most 1,000-pound adult horses need at least 10 to 12 gallons of water daily. Impaction colic increases during the winter because horses aren’t drinking enough and there is little moisture in hay compared to grass. This can also lead to a decreased appetite which can leave your horse with less energy, and body fat, to sustain them throughout the winter months. Always have a plan in place to keep your horse’s water from freezing and routinely check it to make sure they always have fresh, clean water available to them at all times!
During winter months, heavy hair coats can often hide weight loss in your horse. It is important to be aware of any changes in their overall body condition. If your horse is losing weight, then you might need to increase their feed and if they are gaining too much weight then it might be a good idea to cut out some of their excess feed. With less activity and colder temperatures, it might be difficult to find what works best for your unique horse. Having regular health checks and being aware of any changes in their body condition can help you know what works best for them. If at any time you have any concerns, contact your trusted veterinarian as soon as possible.
Give ‘em Shelter
Even if your horse is stabled at night, they should have access to shelter from wind, sleet, and storms at all times. Free access to a stable or an open-sided shed works well, as do trees if a building is not available. If horses have access to a shelter, they can tolerate temperatures as low as -40° F. But horses are most comfortable at temperatures between 18° and 59° F, depending on their coat.
Blanketing a horse can be necessary to reduce the effects of cold weather when:
Don’t forget about their feet! Horse hooves generally grow slower during the winter, but trimming should still take place every 6-12 weeks. Properly trimmed hooves will chip less, hold less snow, and will provide a bit more grip on the slippery ground.
Horse hooves are also prone to “ice or snowballs” where balls of packed ice and snow harden around their hooves, making it hard for them to walk and increasing their chance of slipping and falling. This can also add more stress to their tendons and joints. Check your horse’s feet as often as possible and pick their hooves daily, especially during heavy snow.
Know your pup!
Every dog is different and knowing the specific needs of your dog will make life easier on the both of you! Just like people, dogs’ cold tolerance can vary from dog to dog based on their coat, body fat, activity level, and general health.
For example, arthritic and elderly dogs may have more difficulty walking on snow and ice and can be more prone to slipping and falling. Whereas dogs with diabetes, heart/kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances may have a harder time regulating their own body temperature and may be more temperature sensitive. This can also be the case for both very young and very old dogs as well.
Consult with your local veterinarian if you are having difficulty determining your dog’s winter needs.
Don’t over feed
Keep your dog at a healthy weight! Some dog owners like to feed more during the winter months so that their dogs have extra protection from the cold, but the health risks that come from that extra weight gain don’t make it worth doing. Keep an eye on your dog’s weight, factoring in their extra bulk from their winter coat, and help them to maintain their healthiest weight. It’s best to talk to your veterinarian before making any significant changes to their diet.
Dogs can dehydrate just as quickly in the winter as the summer. Make sure they always have access to water both inside and outside of the house (if they are outside check that the water isn’t frozen over).
Keep ‘em warm
It’s a common belief that dogs are more resistant than people to cold weather because of their fur, but that is not always the case. Like people, dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia in freezing conditions. Longer-haired and thick-coated dog breeds, such as huskies and other dogs bred for colder climates, are more tolerant of cold weather; but no pet should be left outside for long periods in below-freezing weather.
If your dog is a short-haired breed or seems bothered by the cold weather, consider dressing them in a sweater or dog coat before going outside. Make sure the sweater fits properly and stays dry! A wet sweater can actually cause your dog to get colder and leaves them vulnerable to sickness.
Keep your dog’s paws from cracking or bleeding by giving them the right amount of winter care! If your dog has furry feet, trim the hair between their pads to prevent ice buildup. Also remember that Winter salt on city sidewalks and roads can burn your dog’s paws and can be toxic! After your walk rinse and wipe down your dog’s paws to remove any salt – you don’t want them licking it off themselves! You can also use booties as paw protection to keep them both clean and warm. Just make sure they are always properly fitted and kept dry!
With Winter comes Antifreeze
Antifreeze smells and tastes sweet to dogs and as little as a teaspoon can be toxic and lead to kidney failure! Be alert for the signs that your dog has ingested Antifreeze, which include drooling, vomiting, seizures, excessive thirst, panting, lethargy, or a drunken appearance.
If you think your dog has ingested antifreeze, it’s important to get to a vet ASAP! Even if you keep your antifreeze safely tucked away, there is still a danger from residue in the streets. So always watch where your dog is sniffing!
Phew! That was a lot! Don’t feel too overwhelmed, just keep in mind that if you are cold, your pets are probably cold too! By paying special attention to your pet’s wellbeing during winter you’ll ensure that you both get to enjoy the season together! And don’t forget that winter cuddles are always a great way for everyone to keep warm! :)