Even though winter in Sydney doesn’t get quite as cold as in some other parts of Australia, or the world, for that matter, it is still important to look after our pets a little bit extra in the colder months to keep them safe and warm.
Pets rely on their fur to stay warm. However, there are a lot of coat types and some are more suited to colder weather than others. Dogs and cats with short coats suffer more in colder weather, and if coats get wet in the rain, their insulation ability is lost as well.
For this reason, our pets need a warm, dry, and draught-free shelter. Letting them stay indoors unless taken out for a walk is beneficial for them. If it is not possible, at least provide a sturdy and well-insulated dry kennel.
Some dogs (e.g., greyhounds with their very short coat and thin skin, or older and arthritic dogs) will still need a warm “jumper” especially at nights.
Warm bedding, soft and raised off the ground, with or without blankets (make sure they don’t chew or eat them), will also help counteract the cold nights.
Be careful with electric blankets or wheat packs, as they can get too hot and cause burns or can be a fire hazard.
If your pet is arthritic, short gentle walks during the day will help keep joints moving more freely. More support may still be needed in the form of extra medication, so regular check-ups with your vet are advisable.
Be careful with pets around heaters. Some animals may love the comfort so much they sit too close and risk getting burned. Pets who are young and boisterous may also knock over a heater and get hurt. Open fires have additional risks, such as burns, fire hazard, smoke inhalation and even carbon monoxide toxicity.
Take extra care as well when driving out of your garage or driveway in the mornings. Outdoor animals (especially cats) find shelter underneath and may get run over accidentally.
Flea treatments are important all year round, especially in Sydney, as it never gets cold enough to kill off all the flea life stages (including eggs and larvae). For the pet living indoors, the fleas will find this environment extra cosy as well.
Finally, if living in or travelling to very cold (freezing) areas, beware of some extra health risks for your pet:
Make sure drinking water never ends up frozen and fresh water is always available.
Hypothermia and frostbite in freezing climates is a real danger to outdoor pets.
Antifreeze (ethylene glycol) is extremely toxic to heart and kidneys, and has a sweet taste so is readily ingested by pets, especially dogs.
Our pets give us so much pleasure through their company. The least we can do is look after their welfare, especially during winter when they are vulnerable to the elements.