Cold winter days and nights are the perfect time for couch cuddles with your favorite furry pal, and staying motivated to exercise when the temperatures dip and the brisk wind is uninviting, can be difficult. However, daily mental and physical exercise is vital during the cold months when people and pets are stuck indoors for extended periods. Exercising your pet is also critical to prevent them from becoming overweight or obese, like more than 50% of U.S. dogs and cats. Our Stone Ridge Pet Resort team wants to ensure your pets stay active this winter, so they are ready with their summer fur-figure when the temperatures warm up. Here are three tips to safely and creatively exercise your pet this winter.
#1: Dress your pet for the weather
Our pets may have year-round fur coats, but that often is not enough when the temperatures drop. Pets with thick fur coats, such as Siberian huskies and Alaskan malamutes, may tolerate winter weather more easily, but all animals are susceptible to the effects of cold temperatures, so limit your pet’s time outside in the cold. Generally, if it’s too cold outside for you, it’s too cold for your pet. However, if your four-legged pal is your running or walking partner, and the weather isn’t too extreme, dress them appropriately to ensure they stay warm, and then head out for your daily exercise. Your pet’s winter gear guide includes:
- A coat or sweater that fits properly, is not too tight, and does not inhibit breathing
- Boots or salves, such as Musher’s Secret, to protect paws
- Reflective gear on your pet’s collar or harness if exercising in the dark
- Healing balm or cream approved by your Conroe veterinarian to protect your pet’s nose from becoming dry or cracked
#2: Get creative with your pet’s exercise routine
Many pets may consider walking to their food bowl an athletic event, especially during the chilly winter months. However, you must encourage your furry friends to remain active, despite spending more time indoors. Daily exercise will prevent your pet from acting out from mental or physical boredom. Ensure your pet has a variety of toys and activities that will motivate them to play and move. On frigid days when park play time or a run are not possible, consider one of these creative ways to exercise your pet each day:
- Play indoor fetch with your dog or cat using soft toys that will not damage any household items.
- Use a rope or other soft toy for a tug-of-war game.
- Provide your feline friend with toys that promote natural stalking behavior, such as a feather wand or toy mouse. Hold daily play sessions where you walk around the house with the wand or mouse, encouraging your cat to chase the toy.
- Play hide-and-seek with your dog by telling them to stay, while you hide in an easy-to-find location in the house. Use praise or a treat once they find you, so they understand the game is a positive experience.
- If available, climb the stairs inside with your pet on a leash or using voice commands. Ensure that your pet’s joints are healthy enough for climbing, and provide lots of praise. This is a great way to bond with your pet while they burn calories.
- Hide small portions of your pet’s food or treats throughout different areas of the house, so they have to move to find the reward.
- Place food treats in puzzle bowls or toys, such as a Kong.
- Exercise your pet’s brain by teaching them a new behavior or skill, such as fetching toys that you’ve given a specific name.
- Have a doggy dance party. Put on some music and dance with your pet around the house to shimmy away the winter blues.
#3: Know your pet’s limits
Whether you are starting a new exercise routine with your pet, or they have been active for a long period of time, ensure they aren’t experiencing any adverse effects from exercise. Cold temperatures may exacerbate clinical signs in arthritic pets, and stiff, painful joints can make standing or walking more difficult. Senior pets, and pets with ongoing health issues, including diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances, may also have a more difficult time managing their body temperature. Winter is a great time to schedule your pet’s wellness exam with your Conroe veterinarian, to ensure they are healthy and on the right exercise track. Never force your pet to exercise, and always give your pet time to get used to a routine by gradually increasing the time you spend on the activity. Additionally, when exercising your pet outside during winter, ensure you monitor them for hypothermia signs, which include:
- Rectal body temperature below 100 degrees
- Dilated pupils
- Muscle stiffness
- Shallow or difficulty breathing
- Low heart rate
- Decreased appetite
- Pale or bluish skin
If your pet has hypothermia signs, bring them inside immediately, cover them with warm blankets or towels, and call your veterinarian.
The Pet Resort at Stone Ridge team wishes you and your pet a warm and active winter. Call our office if you have any questions about starting a winter exercise routine for your pet.