Winter Grooming

Grooming your pet is just as important in winter as it is during the rest of the year – it’s not just about looking good, but promoting good health and comfort. Every pet’s coat is different, so it is important to make sure you understand how to look after them properly. If you are not sure, speak to your vet before the cool weather sets in. Grooming your pet for winter doesn’t need to be an ordeal, it can be an extremely simple and comfortable activity with these squeaky-clean tips!

Bathing:

Bathing guidelines are a little different, depending on your pet. When it comes to cats, most don’t really need (or enjoy!) a bath. Dogs on the other hand, typically need more frequent bathing. Of course, there are special circumstances when you may need to bathe your pet more or less:

  • If they are recovering from an injury or procedure and cannot clean themselves efficiently you may need to bathe your pet.
  • Some hairless cats require frequent bathing, speak to your vet for advice.
  • They may need an unscheduled bath if their coat has become matted, stuck with something that cannot be cleaned naturally or even just rolled in something smelly.
  • If your pet has dry skin or other skin conditions, they may benefit from less (or more) frequent bathing.

When you do have to bathe your pet, keep in mind a few important tips:

  • Never use human shampoo and conditioner! The pH levels are different to what your pet needs and can cause skin irritations. Make sure you buy a specific kitten, cat, puppy, or dog shampoo.
  • Check the temperature – pets can’t tolerate the same water temperatures adult humans can. Make sure the water is comfortably warm but not hot or cold – imagine you are running a bath for a newborn baby. Use the tip of your elbow to check the temperature.
  • Make sure to dry your pet properly after a bath. Whether this is with a hairdryer or towel, it is important to make sure your pet dries thoroughly. Leaving your pet’s coat wet can lead to problematic skin conditions, matted fur and can also cause hypothermia in cold weather. If your pet prefers to air dry after a quick towel rub, make sure you bathe them early on a warm day so they have plenty of time to dry in the sun.
  • Remember to keep an eye on your hair dryer's temperature if you use one – these can get HOT!

Brushing:

Brushing your pet’s coat is extremely important for removing knots to prevent mats from forming. A smooth, well brushed coat is key to properly insulating and keeping your pet clean in winter. Some dog and cat breeds have double (and even triple!) coats, so getting rid of tangles needs to be a priority! Try to brush your pet every couple of days (depending on their coat).

Footcare:

Our pets need paw-dicures too! Here are some easy tips for looking after your pet’s feet:

  • Keep your pet’s nails trimmed – this will prevent painful cracked or curling nails and more serious long-term foot and leg damage.
  • Take your dog outside to walk on hard and rough surfaces like concrete – the rough surface will act as a file and help to wear their nails down naturally.
  • Trim your cat’s claws during winter – if they spend more time indoors when it is cold outside, they might be more prone to scratch household furniture and other indoor pets!
  • Keep the fur in between your pet’s toes trimmed neatly. If this becomes wet through walking, it may be slow to dry, encouraging bacterial growth that causes skin irritations and other issues (not to mention, it will become smelly!).

Dry Skin

Just like us, our pet’s skin can become dry in winter too. This can be for a number of reasons (incl. parasites, cool weather or allergies) and may be treated with moisturisers, dietary supplements, regular grooming and if needed, medication (check with us before starting your pet on any treatment). It is important to check your pet closely for signs of dry or irritated skin:

  • Itchiness (look for excessive scratching),
  • Dandruff, scabby and flaky skin,
  • Cracked paws,
  • Hair loss,
  • Increased oiliness,
  • An unpleasant odour.

No matter how big or small your pet is, proper winter grooming will keep them happy, healthy, comfortable and looking fantastic over the cooler months!
Have a chat with your local vet about grooming and any concerns you may have.


Obesity & Weight loss

The internet is full of cute, funny photos and videos of ‘chonky’ pets – but a fat cat or pudgy pup is no laughing matter. Much the same as humans, overweight and obese animals are susceptible to a range of dangerous and uncomfortable health conditions, and ultimately can lead to a shortened life.

Obesity is one of the most common nutritional disorders our vets see in cats and dogs. In Australia and New Zealand, nearly half of all pet dogs and approximately a third of pet cats are overweight! Some common ailments caused by being overweight include:

• Diabetes
• Cardiovascular disease (heart disease)
• Degenerative joint and orthopedic disease (including arthritis)
• Joint stress or musculoskeletal pain
• Respiratory problems
• Cancer and tumours
• Skin problems
• Hypertension (high blood pressure)
• Reproductive disorders
• Decreased quality of life
• Shorter life expectancy

What causes pets to become overweight?

There are a few ways our pets can gain excess weight, and whilst some breeds are more susceptible to weight-gain than others, most reasons come down to our willpower as a responsible pet parent! These causes can include:

• Feeding extra treats
• Feeding unhealthy treats
• Feeding an unbalanced diet
• Lack of exercise

How do I know if my pet is overweight?

Your pet might be overweight if:
• You experience difficulty when trying to feel their ribs
• You cannot see a defined ‘waist’
• You can see obvious fat deposits and rolls
• They are no longer grooming themselves efficiently, if at all
• They are reluctant to exercise or are disinterested
• They quickly become tired and refuse to continue exercise
• They have a ‘waddle’ to their walk – or other abnormal movement
• They are at a weight dramatically different from breed guidelines
• They are often panting – even without movement or exercise

Healthy treats and fun exercise

Avoid feeding your pet ‘junk food’ treats like jerky type strips and highly processed snacks that might be purchased in the supermarket. Human treats are also a big no-no – no matter how cute those begging eyes are. It is also important not to feed your pet treats here and there ‘just because’. Use treats as a reward for positive behaviours and training. Some healthier reward treats include:

• A small percentage of your pet’s daily feed allowance (kibble)
• Fresh foods like carrots, zucchini, berries, or beans for dogs
• Small amounts of cooked fish, catnip, or cat grass for cats
Some simple ways to include fun exercise in your pet’s day include:
• A walk
• Playing with your pet – inside or in the backyard
• Fetch (for cats and dogs!)
• Tug-o-war
• Swimming
• Climbing toys and spaces for cats
• Chasing laser toys
• Socialising with other animals your pet is comfortable with
• Nose-works – get your cat or dog moving by hiding healthy treats or interesting smells for them to sniff out

What can I do if I think my pet is overweight?

If you suspect your pet is overweight, it is important not to change their diet or exercise schedule drastically or quickly – this could exacerbate the problem. Book an appointment with your vet, and together you will create a plan to help your pet reach their optimal weight in a healthy and sustainable manner.


How To Keep Your Pet Active During Winter?

When the winter season arrives, we can find ourselves locked inside for days to ensure that we remain warm and dry. Exercising for both you and your pets can become unpleasant, especially in stormy areas.

Exercising ensures that your pet remains healthy while reducing any behavioural problems such as excessive licking, chewing, digging, or barking. Leaving out regular exercise for your pet can result in obesity, mental health problems and joint inflammation.

Tips for keeping your pets active

The first tip for ensuring that your pet remains active is to introduce the concept of indoor fetch. Playing fetch with your dog can be a viable option for motivating your dog to participate in fun, cardiovascular activity. If you have a decent amount of room in a section of your house, fetch is the perfect game during this winter season. Be careful to avoid slippery floor surfaces and areas where they may cause accidents with furniture or people!

Learning new tricks can provide an excellent activity for your pet. Tricks such as rolling over, catching soft toys/balls in their mouths, or balancing treats/toys on their noses are all activities that ensure physical and mental exercise. Changing toys out daily for variety and environmental enrichment can also be a rewarding change of scene for your pet. You can also try using cat scratching posts which cats love to sharpen their claws and to stretch their legs.

During the warmer days of winter, on-leash and off-leash walking can also provide excellent cardiovascular exercise for you and your pet. On-leash allows you to structure the walk and keeps you in control of any situation, where off-leash walking can provide your pet with more exciting walks and let them expose to their surroundings.

There are many ways to stimulate your pet’s mind and body without venturing into the winter weather. Simply offering meals in a feeding toy rather than just a food bowl can be very advantageous as studies have shown that dogs enjoy their food more when they have to work for it.

It is crucial to recognise the negative impact of the winter season and its effects on the overall well-being of your pet. As a pet owner, you need to ensure that your pets remain active during winter to reduce any physical and mental impacts. You can also visit the clinic for more information and guidance on how to keep your pet’ active during winter from one of our veterinary team!