Do you have fond memories of you and your dog going tobogganing together? Or perhaps your kitten curled up by the fire? Or maybe even your rabbit bounding around in the snow? Though those memories might be wonderful, perhaps this year you’ve noticed your furry friends starting to slow down, go a bit grey, and maybe just prefer being indoors. Just like us, pets do get old, and though that doesn’t mean saying goodbye anytime soon, you may have to think a little differently on how to help your senior pet cope this winter.
General Advice for Senior Pets:
Older pets, in general, don’t cope as well with the cold and wet, so will need extra care and attention when the weather changes. Arthritis and joint disease are especially common in older animals, and the cold can make them very stiff and sore. Furthermore, older pets often have other diseases or illnesses that might make them weaker than normal, less energetic and willing to go out in the cold. All of these problems mean that you may have to make some changes this winter to keep them happy.
Always ensure your pets are kept warm, with nests, bedding and blankets around the house. Keep these well away from doors, windows and draughts. You might want to consider bringing outdoor pets, like rabbits, inside: do this well in advance, before it gets cold. If you have to leave your pet alone in the house, make sure the heating is on. And many of us know the feeling when we need to go to the gym, but it’s too cold to go out; your elderly pets will feel the same when they have to exercise. Try and keep up regular exercise to avoid weight gain, as an overweight animal has extra stress on already weak joints. Their diet is crucial for this too, so make sure they are getting the correct senior food to avoid weight gain. Finally, always ensure they have regular check-ups with our vets, not just in winter, but year round, to help keep them in tip-top condition.
Advice for Old Dogs:
Not many dogs will say no to ‘walkies’, even the grey ones, so there are some considerations you should make when walking your elderly dog in winter. Elderly dogs will feel the cold, especially short-haired breeds, so consider purchasing a dog coat to keep them warm. Ensure it fits well, is waterproof and easily washable. If possible, try it on in the shop so you can check it does not rub or slip off. A winter coat will go a long way to keeping them warm. You might even want to try doggy boots, which will keep their paws from getting cold in the snow. They will also give them a better grip on ice, and stop the salt used to grit the roads getting to their feet. If you decide not to choose boots, ensure you wash your dog’s feet well after each walk, as the salt can cause irritation.
On the walk, you might want to start taking shorter, easier routes to avoid tiring your dog out. Avoid areas with lots of hills or icy areas. While out and about, never leave an elderly dog unattended, as there are lots of hidden dangers in the snow and fog; elderly dogs will have poorer hearing and eyesight, so may not notice problems before it is too late. Once you get back home, give them a nice warm towel down, or even carefully hair-dryer them (if they let you) to make sure they stay nice and dry.
Perhaps even long walks in the cold are now too much for your pooch? But this doesn’t mean they can’t exercise. Consider taking them to dog exercise classes, or dog parks, where they can run around safely. They might even meet some new friends there! If these aren’t for you, the back garden, or even the house, can become a little exercise run, just to make sure they don’t get too overweight. At home, you may also notice they need to toilet more frequently. Make sure you accommodate for this, and encourage them to go, even when it is cold, to avoid any ‘accidents’ around the house.
Advice for Elderly Cats:
Depending on your senior cat, they may seem no different to when they were a kitten, or they may suddenly decide to permanently live curled up on the sofa! In either case, there are some things you should consider for your elderly cat this winter. Winter is cold, and many older cats may decide to spend more time indoors. If they do, make sure they have plenty of toys to keep them occupied, and areas to sleep in. Keep these warm, away from the cold or any draughts.
You might find that your elderly cat does not want to go outside at all when it is cold. In this case, it is always a good idea to provide some litter trays. Keep them on the floor, and make sure they are shallow, so it is not difficult for them to drag their weary bones in. It’s not worth the risk of a mess on the kitchen floor! As with dogs, winter can be dangerous outside for elderly cats, so you may want to consider moving them indoors permanently even if they prefer being snow cats! In this case, prepare well in advance so they are not missing anything they might need and adjust easily.
Life can be tricky for elderly pets, and winter can have additional difficulties, especially if they have to go outside. However, with some love and care from their owners, some warm hugs and blankets, things might not be so bad. Follow our tips to make sure your elderly pet stays safe and warm this winter. Who says you can’t teach an old dog (or cat… or rabbit…) new tricks?