From Dr. Jason Rowan:
Our family loves winter weather! We walk our big Irish Wolfhound Tully almost every day out in the snow, and our family frequents the ski hill on Sundays. You can also see me on the slopes every second Thursday, as a volunteer as a ski patroller up at Big White.
Two weeks ago, we had an impromptu #snowdogscontest on Instagram and Facebook, and we were amazed at all the fun you, your dogs (and cats!) get up to. Winter weather does, however, present challenges to our furry friends. Dry skin, irritated paws and plain old freezing are some of the most common health issues.
Our cat Vega often gets dry, dandruffy skin in the wintertime. The air is dryer to begin with, and forced air heating dries it out even more. To help cat and dog's skin, the best treatment is from the inside out. Start with a good quality fish oil, with dense Omega 3 fatty acids. You don't have to get it from us (although we do have some excellent fish oil choices at very good prices!) but you should follow these guidelines for fish oil. First, it shouldn't smell like fish. Seriously! Pop those capsules open if you are not sure. If your fish oil smells like fish, it has gone rancid, and won't help skin or anything else. Your fish oil should smell like fresh ocean, and should be kept fresh in the fridge. Secondly, try to source your fish oil from sustainable, non-toxic fisheries. We stick to small fish from the North Sea, or wild-caught salmon and pollack from Alaska. Our fish oil is labeled with product-specific dosage amounts for pets, for your handy convenience.
Salt and ice can wreak havoc on dog's paws when they are out walking the streets and slipping through snowbanks. To totally protect the paws and keep them warm, try Muttluks, the best bootie out there, proudly made in Canada! Muttluks is a great company, donating to more than 50 pet related charities a year. But more importantly, their booties really stay on. Arnica and I's therapy dog Hamish (RIP best dog ever) used to wear them when we lived in Alberta, and he had them for years and years.
The other option for cats and dogs is the Herbal Paw Balm that we make here in house at Pandosy Village Veterinary Hospital. With beeswax from Arlo's Farm, fair-trade shea butter and apricot kernel oil, the balm not only nourishes sore, chapped paws, but also forms a protective barrier against the elements when applied before going outside. It works amazingly well.
Always remember to wash off paws when you come in from salty streets, or anywhere you see the glare of antifreeze. Salt is just an irritant, but antifreeze is deadly, so please watch your pets stay out of it.
To stay warm, dogs can definitely add a sweater. We only sell wool sweaters at our clinic, and for a simple reason - even wet wool is warm. Whatever coat or sweater you choose, make sure you are drying it out thoroughly between hikes so your dog doesn't have wet fabric resting on her skin, causing a yeast buildup.
Cats and dogs often do really well in the snow, and let's face it - it's not exactly Antartica here in the Okanagan Valley! But if you see your best friend is lifting their paws or shivering, it's time to go in and settle by the fireplace. Also pay attention to ears - I unfortunately have seen a few cats lose their ears to frostbite because they were roaming too long outside or too far from home in colder weather. It's best not to let them wander off, and try not to leave your pets in the car for extended periods, especially if you are up in the mountains. Keep your pets close so you can monitor their comfort leave, keeping them happy and healthy.
Hopefully these tips will help you keep your cats and dos in tip top winter health! If you have any questions about these winter health tips, don't hesitate to ask.
Yours in holistic pet health,
Our integrative neighbourhood vet clinic offers holistic care for your pets, such as herbal medicine, nutritional consultations, vaccinations and titre testing, and chiropractic care, as well as conventional medicine, spay/neuter surgeries and dentistry. Our Pounce & Hound Fine Pet Goods store stocks high quality food, nutritional supplements, gear and toys.
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