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Getting pets ready for the colder season

By Kerrin Jeromin

Winter is right around the corner. While we prepare our homes, family and closets for the colder weather, it’s important to get our four-legged friends ready, too!

Winter weather can be harsh on our animals. Just like people, pets shouldn’t be exposed to cold, wet winter weather for long. Even the hardiest breeds have limits to their exposure to the elements. Whether you’re going for a long walk or a quick potty run, consider these tips to ensure your pet thrives this winter.

For most pets, their furry coat is a natural defense to the weather. Proper and regular grooming can be the best way to get your pet winter-ready. Dumb Friends League groomer, Helen Turner, agrees. “Many pet owners believe that to keep their animals warm they should let the hair grow out for the cold season. This is not usually good grooming practice,” said Turner.

“Letting the hair go unkempt can be cause for mats to form.” Mats restrict the air flow between the skin and coat and will not help the animal to stay warm.

Turner says grooming needs vary, and considerations should be taken in grooming habits for different breeds. Consider the geographical area a breed originates from, what was the purpose of the breed and where it lives currently for good grooming habits. “We can help the animals adapt to environmental changes so they can be comfortable all year round,” explained Turner.
Spend some time with your best friend and brush them regularly to help release the thicker under coat, and enable their skin to breathe and prevent matting. Especially in cold, wet snaps, try to minimize bathing your pet. Too much bathing can strip your pet’s fur of oils, which act as a natural waterproofing to the wet winter conditions.

Once you’ve developed good grooming habits for your pets, there are other tips to ensure your pet is as comfortable as possible this winter.

You may wish to discuss with your veterinarian feeding your pet a little bit more during the cold weather months, which can provide much-needed calories. Also ensure your pet has plenty of water to drink to stay well-hydrated and help prevent dry skin.

If your pet allows it, you can always try winter “fashion” to keep him or her more comfortable this season. For short-haired pets, sweaters or coats can help for those quick trips outdoors. Consider getting a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly to keep your pet warm. Just be sure not to overdo it. Sweaters left on too long can cause static and friction leading to mats and irritations to the skin.

Consider booties for your pup on those winter walks to minimize exposure to harmful chemicals and salts on the walkways. If going “bootless,” be ready to wash your pet’s paws and body with a towel during or immediately after walks to minimize exposure to harmful winter chemicals.

During the cold months, limit time spent outside with your pet, especially in harsh cold or windy snaps. Always offer shelter for pets who do spend time outdoors. When inside, be mindful of the temperature in your home. Offering cooling and warming areas can help your pet adjust to any indoor condition and ensure your pets are as happy as they can be during the colder months ahead.

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