This year, the first day of winter is December 21, though winter weather has already blown into New York and the Upper West Side! We’ve got several months of chilly weather still ahead of us, and we want to give you some tips for keeping your pet healthy and full of energy over the winter holiday season.
First of all, exercise is a very important part of any pet’s health program, but it can be difficult to keep a regular exercise schedule when the weather is nasty outside. Here are some things to consider:
- Create a routine that works for your schedule. Outside exercise can be daunting during the coldest parts of the year, so come up with an exercise routine that’s sustainable—you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Maybe early morning walks with your pet before work will get you up and moving. Or perhaps a game of fetch during your lunch hour will invigorate you for the rest of the afternoon. Whatever it may be, find something both you and your pet enjoy and stick with that activity throughout the winter. Your pet will pick up on your enthusiasm!
- Bundle up! You and your pet will enjoy your outside jaunts more if you’re appropriately dressed for the cold. There are many different options for sweaters, coats, and footwear for your pet that can keep him or her toasty warm during your outdoor exercise adventures. If you do bundle up your pet, make sure to choose clothing items that fit well and do not pose choking hazards. If you choose not to dress your pet when going outside, make sure to dry wet fur when coming back in—this will go a long way toward keeping your pet warm and comfortable. For in-depth information about signs and symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite in pets, please review this terrific article from Veterinary Partner.
- Offer a special treat after outside activity. Your pet will burn extra calories when exercising outside in the cold weather, so it’s perfectly fine to offer a special treat afterward. Your pet will look forward to this incentive and be more willing to go outside even when the temperature is down below freezing!
Another important and obvious aspect of optimal pet health during the holiday months is healthy diet. Many of us have difficulty maintaining a healthy, balanced diet during this time of the year, so keeping a close eye on our pets’ diets may actually help us be a little more conscientious about our own food goals as well!
- Avoid giving table food to your pets. Table food can pose a problem for your pet for two main reasons: your pet can end up eating too much, and/or your pet could ingest foods that are toxic. Some foods and beverages that pets should never consume are chocolate, onions, garlic, raisins, coffee, and alcohol of any kind. For a more complete list of foods that are poisonous to cats and dogs, take a look at this list put out by The Humane Society. It is entirely appropriate to ask your holiday guests not to give table food to your pet.
- Follow extra food indulgence with extra exercise. We enjoy special foods during the holidays, and we want our pets to be able to do that too. Whether you make safe treats for your pets yourself or buy them from your favorite pet store, make sure to follow increased intake with a little more exercise than usual. This will prevent your pet from gaining weight over the holiday season and thus help your dog or cat avoid the health problems extra weight could create in the upcoming year.
The staff at Hudson Animal Hospital in New York are here to help. If your pet gets sick and needs to be seen or if you suspect hypothermia, please call us right away at 212-706-4088. We want to wish a wonderful, safe, and healthy holiday season for you and your pet and remind you our clinic will be closed from December 25th to January 1st. If you have an emergency during the holidays please call our friends at Blue Pearl Veterinary Center (212-767-0099) who are always open.