If you have a dog that spends most of its time romping in your backyard, or a kitty that whiles away the day in a sunny patch on the front porch, winter's arrival may be a rude awakening. Sure, your precious pets are covered in fur. But many just aren’t equipped to be out in frigid temperatures for prolonged periods.
So how can you make sure your four-legged friends are warm and well-cared for when the mercury dips? WebMD talked to veterinarians and pet owners and got their top tips on winter safety...
Houston’s Canine Health Institute associate medical director Adrianne Brode, DVM, says neglecting preventive health care is the most common mistake dog owners make.
"Taking your dog in to the vet for regular examinations, giving heartworm prevention, and getting your dog the appropriate vaccinations and deworming can prevent many diseases," Brode says. For example, heartworm disease can be difficult to treat and ultimately fatal to dogs, but it's easily preventable.
Oregon veterinarian Marla J. McGeorge, DVM, says yearly exams help your vet catch problems early. Instead of coping with lengthy treatment of an advanced or chronic condition, your vet can catch issues in their beginning stages when care may mean cure. Early care saves you money in the long run.
Simply getting your dog vaccinated isn't the same as a full physical exam. Among other things, a comprehensive checkup may include:
A fecal examination for intestinal parasites
Examination of a dog’s gums, heart, lungs, teeth, eyes, and ears
Talk to your veterinarian to learn more.
Mistake 2: Neglecting Dental Care
Shawn Messonnier, DVM, author of the Natural Health Bible for Dogs and Cats, says neglecting regular dental care is also common. Dogs need dental care for the same reason we do: to prevent gum disease.
As with human teeth, plaque forms on a dog's teeth after eating. If left alone, the plaque builds, causing inflammation, decay, and eventually bone and tooth loss. And while this silent war goes on in your dog's mouth, she’s probably experiencing pain you don't notice because dogs, like cats, instinctively hide pain.
Gum disease is five times more common in dogs than it is in people. But it's easy to prevent and to treat with dental care that includes:
Good quality food
Regular oral X-rays, exams, and cleanings
Safe teeth-cleaning treats and chew toys
Mistake 3: Overfeeding
If too much love is ever a bad thing, it's when we show it in the form of too many tasty treats. "Rewarding and loving our dogs with food leads to obesity," Brode says. Overweight or obese dogs are at higher risk for arthritis and other orthopedic issues as well as other health problems.
It can be difficult enough to balance your own diet let alone that of your dog. Your vet can help you select a good, high-quality food for your dog and give you tips on exercise and treats. You don't have to stop sharing occasional goodies with your pooch, as long as 90% to 95% of your dog's diet is healthy and well balanced.