Wild weather over the last few days has reminded us that once again winter is setting in. It’s time again for woolly socks, hot drinks, warm coats and blazing fires.

While planning for cold weather, responsible pet owners should also start thinking about the comfort levels of their furry and feathered companions.

If you are starting to feel cold and uncomfortable, then your pet is likely feeling the same way. Luckily, there are a number of simple ways you can keep your pet safe and warm this winter.

“While most pets are covered with fur or feathers, some breeds seem to tolerate the cold more readily than others. Every pet has different tolerances for heat and cold, and each pet should be considered individually,” RSPCA CEO Jan Davis said.

The very young and old, small pets, short-haired and hairless varieties, those with chronic disease (including heart disease, Cushing’s disease, arthritis and kidney disease), and pets with special needs are less cold-tolerant and more likely to experience problems during winter.

So how do we know when it’s too cold for our pets to be outdoors?

“Generally, if we are cold in our winter wear, it is too cold for most pets to be outdoors for more than a few minutes. When temperatures are below freezing, most pets would be better off indoors – even if it is only to a sheltered room like a laundry or closed-in garage or veranda,” Ms Davis said.

Winter provides the fashion conscious pet with a chance to strut their stuff.  There’s an amazing array of coats and jackets for dogs of all shapes and sizes, cats, ferrets, and even some birds. Look for designs that provide a snug but not too tight fit, and without irritating zippers or embellishments that could be a choking hazard. But not all pets like to dress up – and that’s OK. If they don’t want to wear a coat, you may need to limit the time they spend outside.

While we want to keep our canine companions inside more during the cold weather, it’s important to take them out frequently enough to prevent health issues. Vets say they see more bladder infections when the weather gets cold because dogs are not getting out as often as they should. And, just like us, too much comfort food and not enough exercise will see them stack on the weight!
If your pet must spend much of their days outside, provide dry, draft-free shelter protection that is large enough for them to comfortably sit up and lie down in, and small enough to hold in their body heat.

Outdoor pets also need a bed or sleeping spot raised off the ground and covered with blankets to keep them warm. Remember to regularly clean and change the bedding to make sure it’s not damp, germy, or filled with fleas or mice. Covering the shelter doorway with heavy plastic or waterproof canvas will help keep cold winds out and body heat in. It is also important to ensure your pets always have access to clean and unfrozen water.

Some animals like to hide out in warm areas, so remember to check your car or clothes dryer before use. Clever pets might find those warm clothes inside the dryer or the warmth inside or under a car to be an ideal place for a snooze.

Pets are wonderful companions and loving members of the family. Snuggle up and stay warm together this winter, and remember, there’s nothing like lots of cuddles to keep the winter blues at bay!

If you see a pet in poor condition this winter, or without shelter from the rain and cold, call the animal cruelty hotline on 1300 139 947 or email reportit@rspcatas.org.au

Jan Davis, CEO – RSPCA Tasmania
Mobile: 0409 004 228
Email: jdavis@rspcatas.org.au