Pets are a joy and comfort at any age, but when we take care of them from infancy into their senior years we often have both a deeper bond and, of course, a duty to provide the best possible care for them as they age. Many pet owners make adjustments to their pet care routine during the winter, but if your pet is elderly, this becomes even more important. Just like humans, the older our pets become, the more they are likely to be affected by the colder weather. Whether you have dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs or all of the above and more, now is the time to start considering your winter care routine to help them stay happy and comfortable when the weather turns.
Top Winter Care Tips for All Senior Pets
- We often provide extra warm bedding during the winter for our pets, but for older animals, this becomes even more important. Consider investing in a plug-in mat (which will automatically shut off at a specific temperature to prevent the risk of burns or fire). Placing this mat under their bedding will help to soothe aching joints and keep them feeling cosy.
- When it’s cold outside, it’s natural to want to stay indoors, but it’s essential that older pets stay active to help them maintain mobility and health.
- Make sure that you take your pet to all of their regular veterinary check-ups during winter to catch any symptoms or issues early on.
- Some owners may think that feeding animals more in winter will help them to store fat and keep them warm, but for older animals, this can add extra pressure on joints and is not good for their health in general. It’s best to feed them foods developed for older animals.
- Although it’s often the last thing we want to think about, it’s also important to keep in mind that if your senior pet is already suffering from a serious health condition and their quality of life is deteriorating, it may be time to consider pet euthanasia.
Winter Care for Senior Small Pets
- Make sure rabbits, guinea pigs and other small pets have plenty of straw or hay to get cosy in. You might also want to buy a heat pad designed for small animals to put in the hutch at night.
- Clean out hutches regularly as wet bedding and newspaper can freeze at night.
- If possible, move them inside the home for the coldest months of the year or perhaps into a shed or outhouse. You could keep them in a garage as long as you aren’t keeping cars in there.
Winter Care for Senior Cats
- Give your cat access to litter trays so they don’t have to go outside.
- Provide lots of toys and stimulation to keep them entertained and active as they may not want to be outside getting their usual exercise and amusement.
- Keep them inside when the sun has gone down so they aren’t out in the extreme cold and crossing roads in the dark.
- If they are an outdoor cat by nature and are unhappy inside, give them a shelter with lots of bedding so they have somewhere to go when it’s cold and wet.
- Buy a microwaveable beanbag or heat pad for cats which you can give them to snuggle up to.
Winter Care for Senior Dogs
- Buy your dog a coat for walks to keep them warm, particularly if they have a short coat.
- Dog boots can give older dogs more balance and grip on icy surfaces.
- Be sure to keep them warm after their bath and to get them dry as soon as possible. If they are comfortable with the use of a hairdryer, this may speed things up for long-haired dogs.
- Try indoor exercises with your dog if they are not keen on going inside to ensure they stay healthy.