As you know, our weather can get rather extreme here in Manitoba. We range from approximately forty five degrees Celsius in the summer to minus 50 degrees Celsius in the winter months. This can be extremely hard on your pets so I’d like to address some things that we can do to keep our animals safe and happy during our winter months.
First of all, your dog or cat should never be left outside for extended periods of time, just like people they are prone to frostbite and hypothermia. To ensure that you and your beloved pet are going into the coldest months well prepared, make sure they are up to date with their wellness examination as well as preventative care such as vaccinations and blood work. At their annual checkup you can discuss things such as arthritis and stiffness, how their heart and lungs sound, how your pet is aging, etc. which are all things that may affect your pets tolerance to the cold.
Your pet’s tolerance of the cold weather will also be affected by coat type, how much body fat they have, size of the pet, etc. but regardless of this all pets are at risk! Dogs should be let outside only briefly to go to the bathroom and return back inside the house, walks should be kept to a minimum but if you have a high energy breed that requires exercise you can put a dog jacket or sweater on them as well as some dog boots to help keep them warm and prevent frostbite. If you are worried that your dog or cat has frostbite or hypothermia you should take them to your regular veterinarian as soon as possible.
During these cold snaps when your pets can’t get the same physical exercise that they’re accustomed to there are some things you can do to help keep them mentally stimulated in the house. Food puzzles and games are a simple and affordable way to keep your pet busy, there are many options online and they have different difficulty levels starting at beginner for a pet that hasn’t done a puzzle before. Make your dog work for his or her food, throwing dry food that won’t make a mess down a staircase and making them go up and down the stairs for the food is a good way to help them get some physical exercise while indoors. Many dogs can also be easily trained to walk on a treadmill if you have one at home as well, this is a great alternative to having them go outdoors for a walk.
Many dogs will also enjoy a game of hide and go seek and it’s very simple, all they need to know is stay! Simply have your dog sit or lay down and stay in an area of the house while you go and hide, call your dog one time and release them from their stay and let them sniff you out, make sure to reward with a treat when they find you.
Tug of war is another great game to physically and mentally challenge your dogs, just make sure it’s safe and controlled while playing, to play this game with your dog they should know the “out” or “drop it” command. The cold weather is also a great opportunity to teach your dog or cat a new trick and work on their general obedience, try practicing “heel” with your dog without a leash all around your home, this will help their manners on leash as well when it’s warm enough to go outside again, or practice their “stay” command, this will help keep them mentally active.
Introduce them to new people and places, although your pet can’t go for walks outdoors you can find some pet friendly stores to take your dog into for something to do, please note that this should only be done if your dog is well socialized and if you have full control over your dog in public settings.
Give them something to chew on, many dogs love having something to chew on, bully sticks or Kongs stuffed with frozen baby food are great options for dogs that seem to be able to chew anything quickly. Cats can also be fed out of a treat ball for mental and physical exercise, and many cats will happily chase a toy wand for hours on end. Catnip or honeysuckle toys are a great way to help keep our feline friends busy as well. They also love having lots of different surfaces to be able to scratch and climb on such as cat trees and cardboard boxes, this is a great natural way for them to be mentally stimulated.
Hopefully some of these tips have helped give you some ideas as to what you can do with your pet while it’s too cold for them outside and please never leave your animals outside during freezing temperatures.