Monday, February 17, 2014

Getting Ready For Warmer Weather

Believe it or not, spring will come. I have it on good authority. Looking at 1-2 feet of snow piles all around you, I know it's hard to believe. But your pet knows it's coming. They can smell it. The birds talk about it. Listen.

There are a few things to consider in the next few weeks to prepare your pets for the seasonal change. Trust me, it's coming.

First, before we get to warm spring weather, it is still somewhat cold and damp because of all the snow. Considering the cold and damp current weather:

1. In a cold environment, your pet’s metabolism will slow down. You may want to consider feeding less food, especially if your pet isn't getting as much exercise as he or she normally would during the warmer months.

2. Being in cold or damp environments causes more pain for pets with preexisting conditions, like arthritis. Animals with Hypothyroid disease are especially sensitive to cold weather (and may be sluggish or reluctant to move).

3. When the body is exposed to cold, physiologically the first thing that occurs is “contraction” of skin (goosebumps) and muscles with the constriction of blood vessels. Energy (Qi) and/or blood flow can be constricted in the channels of the muscles (trigger points), causing pain in these areas.

4. In cold and damp climates, muscles will be tight and contracted. This can mean that your pets will have a limited range of motion, so they may need extra time to “warm up” before being able to move properly. Many dogs will often have a stiffer gait in these climates and will have trouble getting up from a down position. Don't confuse this with an injury or arthritis. Your veterinarian can diagnose between an innocent cold issue and a serious injury. (see Sept,2011 Arthritis)

  • 5. Dogs and cats are more likely to suffer from urinary tract infections. As the weather remains cold and wet, some pet caregivers will be less inclined to take their dogs out for walks to go to the bathroom, and a lot of dogs will “hold it” longer than they should. Some dogs will start licking themselves to alleviate the pressure of having to pee, and that will introduce bacteria into their urinary system.

Once we get to warm spring weather, consider these do's and don'ts:

1. Preventive veterinary care: Have you seen your veterinarian lately? Twice-annual exams are a good idea, allowing veterinarians to detect problems early, which can mean a better outcome for the patient, and cost savings for pet owners.

2. Winter weight gain: Getting flabby over the winter may be even more of a problem for pets than it is for us. Two issues are involved: Pets don't exercise outside as often, and you don't get outdoors as often. With you in the house more, your pet may indulge in more between-meal snacks. An increase of as little as two pounds for a cat or small dog may not seem significant, but imagine any of us increasing our weight 20 percent over the winter. About half of all pets are overweight or obese, which can be directly linked to several illnesses, including diabetes in cats; arthritis, some types of cancer and behavioral problems. Ask your veterinarian to put your pet on a prescription diet and professionally supervise the weight loss.

3. Shaping up: No crash workouts! Take it easy and ease your pet into condition. Exercise is great, but remember it's not likely your pet worked out on a treadmill over the winter, as you did.

4.  If your pets aren't protected from fleas and ticks, start today. The question is, what product do you choose, with so many available at big box stores and online? Don't make an impulsive choice based on price or marketing because you might lose in the long run. Instead, consult your veterinarian for the product best suited to the individual lifestyles of your pets. Due to the snowy winter, and (so far) wet weather, parasites may enjoy a banner year. Protect your pets before there's an infestation.

5.  In many parts of America, this was the most snowy winter in decades, and with a rainy spring arriving, it seems our fate is sealed. Mosquitoes are likely to be abuzz in record numbers. Mosquitoes carry heartworm disease from dog to dog and dog to cat. Be sure your dog is on a preventative recommended by your veterinarian. Additionally, be absolutely sure your pet is tested for heartworm disease once a year.

6. Now is the time for the "big shed," which means more brushing. The more you brush your pets, the less you vacuum.

7. Hitting the road: Even if you can afford the gas, many pets are more eager to stay home than join you on a road trip. For pets you know would love the experience, but might get car sick, ask your veterinarian about medication for motion sickness and anxiety.

 8. Microchip your pets: Of course, for all pets hitting the road, ID is a must. This is important even for indoor cats, as more people may be coming and going from your house, increasing the risk that a door may be left open. Also, remember to register with your microchip provider.

The Providence Veterinary Hospital Blog is a publication of Peter Herman, VMD, at the Providence Veterinary Hospital, 2400 Providence Ave. in Chester, PA. Contact Dr. Herman at 610-872-4000 or visit us at