As winter approaches and Mr. Frost begins paying us regular visits, we humans begin to adjust our clothing. We go from just "taking a sweater just in case..." on those brisk fall days to looking like "Nanook of the North" as Winter settles in. Unfortunately, our pets do not have a wardrobe from which to choose. In fact they do not have a wardrobe at all. We must provide for them in terms of food and shelter.
Our pets will need more food in the winter. Sometimes, they will need half again their normal amount, especially those pets that remain outdoors.
Be sure to buy a good quality food. You will feed your pet less and your pet will absorb more of its nutrients. It doesn't take an expert or "Rocket Scientist" to evaluate your pet's food. Just compare labels of other brands. For example, if the guidelines on one package calls for 3 cups for a 40 to 60 pound dog, and another calls for 8 to 9 cups, well duh, which is the better food? Obviously, the one that calls for 3 cups because more of it is being absorbed by your dog, and, it will produce less stool. [By the way, watch out for soy in dry dog food. Dogs cannot digest it, so it is nothing but a stool maker.] The smaller amount of food recommended by the manufacturer the better. The food you are giving your pet is guaranteed only if your pet eats the recommended amount. If the package calls for 8 to 9 cups and your dog can't eat all of it, then your dog isn't getting all the nutrients it needs. The most expensive food to feed your pet are the generic brands because you feed your pet more of it and you end up spending more time and money at the vet.
Don't forget that winter is cold for your pets, too. They can't put a coat on. The only coat they have is the one they were born with. Don't leave your pets out too long. They are not adjusted to the cold weather and can get frostbite easily. Boots, sweaters and coats for dogs will help them brave the cold weather. Check for ice between their toes when they come in. The ice can cut them. Salt and "snow melt" can burn your pet's feet and antifreeze is a deadly sweet treat for your pet. Clean up any spills if you add antifreeze to your car and get your pets used to having their paws wiped off when they come in. Doing this will prevent their paws from being burned.
Some people believe in keeping their pets outside. We at Noah's Ark do not believe in "outdoor pets". In order for your pet to bond with the family and become part of the family, your pet has to be in with the family.
However, if you do keep your pet outside it needs to be protected. This is northern Illinois. The winters are long, very cold, cloudy and wet. Your pet must be sheltered from these conditions. You will need a god house just slightly bigger than your pet;s body. Make sure the house is off the ground facing south. Line the inside of the house with straw. do not use blankets or rages. They will get wet, freeze and never dry out. Straw will keep the moisture away from the animal's body. Once the dog is out for the winter, leave it out. It is not good to bring dogs in and out. When it gets really cold put fresh straw in the house and tack a heavy cloth "door" on it. Cut a slit in the cloth to enable the dog to get in and out. Make sure your dog has plenty of clean fresh water. An outdoor pet must be watered twice daily at a very minimum. snow is not an acceptable substitute.
The holidays can be a very dangerous time for your pets. Cats are attracted to the sparkle of tinsel. However, tinsel can cause intestinal damage is swallowed. Glass ornaments can cause injury if they are broken as well as the hooks used to hang them on your tree. Seasonal plants such as poinsettias, mistletoe, holly and bittersweet are poisonous to pets. Keep these plants out of reach or hang them. If your car is kept outdoors be sure to bang on the hood or blow your horn when you start your car. Stray cats love the warmth of the engine.
Turkey, dressing, gravy and all those holiday foods we treasure so much are wonderful, but not for your pets. These foods are too rich for them and can really upset them. Never give your pets cooked bones. They can splinter and pierce their intestines. So, don't give in to those little beggars. Those oh so sad eyes crying out for just a teeny tiny morsel of your wonderful feast. Instead check out the great recipes we have for dog and cat cookies as well as dog biscuits. Your pets will love them.
The holidays are fun and winter can be a great season to be enjoyed by all the family. Practice some caution, use some common sense and everyone can have a great winter. Just remember to include all the family.
Information source: Jan Stewart, Director
Noah's Ark Animal Sanctuary of Rockford Illinois
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