Fall Wellness Checklist for Your Pet: Prepare for Colder Weather and Shorter Days

Ambassador Animal Hospital’s Wellness Guide

Just like us, animals respond to weather and have different needs during different seasons. Use our Fall Wellness Checklist to ensure that you and your pet are properly prepared for colder months.

Summer is nearly gone, and with it, the dangers of heat exhaustion and dehydration for your pets. But dogs and cats face distinct health and wellness concerns, as well as safety issues, as the days grow colder and shorter. Fall is an ideal time to take an inventory of your pet’s wellness, establish a new routine, and make sure that you help your dog or cat adjust.

With a little planning, you can help your pets remain happy and healthy and during the fall and winter. Here are our top concerns for dogs and cats during this season:

 

Weather Changes

Why It’s a Concern. The cold weather can aggravate certain chronic medical conditions, such as arthritis or respiratory issues, affecting your pet’s mobility, pain levels, and happiness during this season.

Prevention Tips. Has your pet had an annual wellness check yet? We recommend a wellness visit once a year for healthy, younger pets and twice a year for older pets or pets with chronic conditions. The fall is a great time to schedule a wellness check-up to make sure your dog or cat is in good health for the coming season. If your dog or cat does suffer from arthritis or respiratory illness, talk to us about joint mobility medication or supplements, laser therapy, or cough suppressants to help keep your pet comfortable through the winter.

 

Separation Anxiety

Why It’s a Concern. As we leave the long summer days and get back into our school and work routines, our dogs often have to adjust, too. Dogs who are used to spending more time with their owners, having a household full of people, and going on vacation may suddenly find themselves alone for most of the day, experiencing mild to severe separation anxiety—and all of the unpleasant associated symptoms. Cats handle separation better, but even they can struggle to adjust to the new routine.
Prevention Tips. Make sure that your dog or cat still gets plenty of attention and exercise both before your family leaves for work and school and after you return. Waking up 30 minutes earlier to fit in a quick walk is healthy for both of you! You can also help your pup adjust to the reduced playtime by scheduling Doggie Day Care once or twice a week. If your dog is experiencing severe anxiety symptoms, such as destroying your belongings or engaging in self-harming behavior, come see us. We offer a full, on-site pharmacy as well as behavioral modification and nutritional counseling. We can help you find the right blend of prevention, medicine, diet and training to keep your dog happy.

 

Seasonal Allergies

Why It’s a Concern. Seasonal allergies are a top concern for both cats and dogs, especially when the weather changes. While spring allergies get more press, many pets also react to new allergens in the fall.

Prevention Tips. Wipe paws down after walks, keep air filters clean indoors, and limit food allergens.  If allergies are especially bad or persistent, schedule an appointment to have your pet evaluated.  We can perform testing for allergies, but the most important thing is to realize that allergies are managed, and not cured. We can prescribe allergy medication, and help you determine the best way to keep your pet comfortable.

 

Parasite Prevention

Why It’s a Concern. Most pet owners give their dogs and cats parasite prevention and flea and tick medication religiously in the summertime. Nobody wants fleas in their home! However, you shouldn’t slack off on your prevention efforts just because the weather cools down. Fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes can survive year-round—especially in our warm, humid southern climate. Heartworms, which are the most prevalent here in the southeast, are expensive to treat and always fatal to dogs if left untreated.

Prevention Tips. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix. Simply continue your regular monthly heartworm prevention and flea and tick prevention medication. The cost ranges from $25-$40 a month for dogs and cats to be fully protected—compared to hundreds of dollars if your home experiences a flea infestation or thousands if your dog gets heartworms or another parasite.

 

Holiday Safety Issues

Why It’s a Concern. The holiday season is full of opportunities for your pet to get into trouble: injuries, accidental poisonings, choking scares, and ingestion issues all tend to increase from October through December. Everywhere you look, there are temptations that could be dangerous for your cat or dog—candy, inedible house plants and ornaments to name a few.

Prevention Tips. You don’t need to worry all the time or monitor your fur family member 24/7. A little bit of forethought helps. Be sure to keep holiday candy and poisonous house plants like Poinsettia out of reach. If possible, keep your holiday decorations out of reach as well, including candles, garlands, ornaments, and tinsel. Of course, we understand that cats can climb, so choose areas of the home that aren’t near their food or their favorite places.

 

Dietary Changes

Why It’s a Concern. As the weather gets colder, we naturally tend to eat a little heavier and indulge a little more freely—but the same shouldn’t go for our pets. Many owners mistakenly believe that their dog or cat needs a bit more food in the fall and winter. The truth is, obesity in pets is a serious concern in America. Unless you have a highly-active dog on your hands or a dog who works outdoors, your pet is unlikely to need extra food or rich, fatty treats. In fact, too much fat from table scraps can cause dogs and cats to experience liver disease, diabetes, and even acute pancreatitis.

Prevention Tips. We’re not out to be Scrooges during the holiday season—we know it’s fun for you to give your pet treats, particularly during the holiday season when many owners are cooking more. Just watch the fatty scraps and stay away from chocolate, raisins, grapes, and onions. In addition to storebought, high-quality treats and speciality diets, there are also many nutritional treats you can make for your pet at home. Pumpkin is a tasty treat that many dogs love, and it’s easy to mix with kibble for a special meal. Cooked eggs and nutrient-dense fish oils are also easily mixed with your pet’s regular meal, providing good fats and essential Omega fatty acids.

 

Cold Weather and Outdoor Safety

Why It’s a Concern. We all understand the dangers of heat exhaustion, hot cars, and dehydration, but the cold can also be rough on our pets. Not only can the cold cause hypothermia, but long-haired pets can collect ice crystals on their fur, particularly on the fur around their feet. Cold weather also leads to dry, flaking skin, cracked and bleeding paws, and frostbite. Finally, dogs are more likely become lost during the winter months if they wander off because snow, rain, or partially frozen ground can mask the scents they use to find their way home.

Prevention Tips. Some pets have a harder time regulating their body temperature than others; animals that are older or have an underlying medical condition can’t tolerate extreme temperatures. When in doubt, play it safe and bring your pet indoors and never leave a pet outdoors in below freezing weather. Check your pet’s paws frequently for signs of damage and find a good healing cream made specifically for animals to protect them. Proper pet grooming, paying attention to the pads of the feet and clipping the fur between the toes, can prevent ice balls from building up while special medicated baths can help prevent dry, itchy skin. Finally, if your pet is microchipped, be sure that the chip is registered and use a collar and leash on your walks to keep your fur friend from wandering away.

 

Indoor Safety Issues

Why It’s a Concern. WIth fireplaces roaring, ovens baking treats, holiday lights twinkling, and candles flickering—there’s no doubt that fall and winter are the coziest seasons. These seasons also present a greater risk for house fires. According to the Red Cross, house fires increase in the fall and winter, peaking in December and January. Most fires start in the kitchen, with heat sources such as fireplaces and wood-burning stoves being the second most common cause.

Prevention Tips. Be sure to practice prevention and to have a pet-inclusive fire plan in place. The fall is also the best time to check all of your smoke alarms and install new ones if needed, perhaps upgrading to a monitored smoke alarm system. Finally, it’s good to remember that many house fires are also accidentally started by our pets during these seasons. If you are able to confine your pets to a crate or to a room or two near the front of the house during the day, you will decrease the likelihood that a fire will start while you’re away and keep your pets safer.

 

At Ambassador, we want all animals to be in their best possible health year-round. Come see us this fall so we can help you care for your dog or cat through the upcoming months.

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