Oh, the doldrums of winter. The holidays are done, with only the credit card bills left. We can try to think spring, but it certainly doesn’t look or feel much like it outside. How about our canine and feline friends? Do they suffer from the “downer days” of January and February like their owners? In reality they certainly sense our emotions and react to the stress that the indoor lifestyle can bring during these dark and dreary days. So what to do? Winter pet maintenance. If you are the type of person who prefers winter hibernation rather than venturing out into the elements, it is time to bring some “environmental enhancement” into your and your pet’s life. What can be done to enhance the lives of our pets while engaging ourselves in something new? Check out the following list and see if any of these will work for you.
1. Brush up on your pet’s dental care. We hear it all the time from our clients. We see many pets with tartar, periodontitis and gingivitis and upon questioning the owner regarding tooth brushing we hear a common exclamation. “I just can’t seem to find the time”. Well guess what? The winter THE time to get started on a new “habit’. Cleaner, healthier teeth and gums leads to less illness and longer lives. And if you have been putting off getting your dog or cat in for a tooth cleaning, now is a good time to embark upon your pet’s dental health program.
2. Time to step up some training. Perhaps you have a young dog or cat with some habits you would like to break. Winter is a good time to work on these. Whether it is through classes at your local pet store, one on one with a trainer or behaviorist or just spending some time on your own researching and putting plans into action, winter is a great time to work with your pet. Not all training is just to break bad habits. Teaching a new tricks is also a way to have fun with your pet while you both learn.
3. Brush, brush and brush. Matted fur? Clumps? Dry hair coat? All common in the winter. Time to create another new habit as well. It is impossible to brush your pet too often and the more you do, the better they will tolerate, or even enjoy it. Brushing frequently helps to get rid of surface debris, enhances skin health and significantly decreases shedding.
4. Environmental Enhancement. What do we mean when we tell pet owners that this is important for their pets, particularly those that don’t spend much time outdoors? It refers to improving the opportunity for exercise and engagement inside the house. It is now well known that cats, in particular, tend to develop more stress related diseases such as urinary and gastrointestinal when they are confined to the indoors. This anxiety results from boredom and minimal activity release. Actively engaging your pet with toys, laser pointers, mazes, and other games not only entertains your dog or cat but keeps them healthier. Building scratching posts, creating hiding places and even playing hunting games by hiding treats throughout the house, are a few ways to engage your pet and lower their stress level. Remember that an active mind helps to sustain a healthy body. And for us humans, it challenges our sense of creativity.
5. Finally, just bundle up, grab the boots and go outdoors. Even though there hasn’t been much snow yet this winter, there is nothing that is more invigorating than heading out into the woods in the winter. The clean air, the fresh smell of forests, the hidden signs of life that go on in spite of our hibernation, are all so rejuvenating. Then the best part? Coming home, warming up after physical activity and having your pet companions there to cozy up. That is truly one of the best rewards, during this otherwise sleepy time of the year.