Our Animals experience the New England seasons in a variety of ways. Many of our very furry companions are energized by the cold and delighted with snow. Others choose to hibernate a bit, curled more often in sunny spots or in front of fires. Generally speaking, like us, they are not yet impatient for Spring but do have to work harder to stay active and healthy.
Dressing for the season
I have found that learning how to dress for cold weather allows me to enjoy the season and the unique experiences it offers. Some consideration for our pets’ garb is helpful.
Darkness and Hunting: For safety be sure your companions are wearing something bright and reflective. Usual areas for walking and play may be open for various hunting activities. All sorts of options are available from bandanas and vests to reflective harnesses, collars and leashes. I like to add a bell to my pack’s collars and there are bright lights that hang with other tags.
Warmth: You know if your animal is cold. Hair or fur, short or long, breed and other factors play a role. I have one who wears a sweatshirt and one that does not need extra warmth. The sweater or shirt can have the additional benefit of calming anxiety that can be a result of reduced activity or increased inside time.
Paws: Ice and hard ground can be difficult for our animals. Their usually tough paw pads can get softer when inside more, can be dry from heating sources and can be chapped, just as our hands, in extreme cold. Have a natural balm on hand. Products are widely available from Musher’s to Pawmajik. Bag Balm is perfect and there are many hemp-based salves that work on both paws and hot spots. For very sensitive paws or very bad ice conditions there are boots and socks and stick-on traction enhancers to consider. (These may help with some desensitization which can assist with nail cutting and care as an added benefit.)
Reduced activity and stimulation can be very difficult for our animals. Change in walking and play schedules can lead to increases in anxiety and behavioral issues, digestive problems and sleep disturbances. Easy ideas include:
Puzzles: Increase mental stimulation to supplement for reduced physical activity. (These are great tricks to learn for when your animal is injured, arthritic or recovering from surgery, as well.) My favorite purchased puzzles are found at www.nina-ottosson.com and are available in a variety of difficulty levels. Homemade puzzles are easy alternatives. “Activity boxes” can be made by nesting cardboard boxes with a toy, high-reward treats/bone, or scented item taped up at different levels. These can provide hours of entertainment for all but the super-chewer in your house. Snuffle Mats can be made by tearing or cutting, then tying layers of cloth or felt, then hiding treats in the folds and pockets created. I love the simple practice of stepping on a plastic gallon jug, creating nooks and crannies for holding hard high-reward treats.
Interaction: A play date at the Dog Park or local animal daycare can be equivalent to multiple walks or runs. And don’t forget the options of a ride in the car, visit to friends or a local animal-friendly store. I include music and new games for home. Check out the book, “50 Games to Play with Your Dog” (Suellen Dainty).
And, for our cats, while they may not be so dependent on outside time they will be missing those open windows and access to yards and catios. Consider making any catio space, most-weather accessible, clear new inside spots where they can sit in the sun, and/or bring home or grow catnip and grasses. Play with light and feathers.
Healthy Immune System and Cold-Related Aches and Pains:
This is a great time of year to add pre and probiotics to your animal’s food. Fido Vite and Carna4 are two supplements, of many, that I like, but there are many to explore. Be sure to check ingredients, go natural and confirm with others which ones your pets are likely to happily ingest. These supplements can give your animals an edge when dryer air starts to cause itchy skin, when nose and ear infections are prevalent and as decreased activity may be causing weight gain.
Digestion can also be adversely impacted by reduced activity. Most pet stores now carry a digestive aid. Keep some pumpkin packets on hand and perhaps some natural bone broth. Kefir is excellent as a meal topper and for that probiotic lift.
Aches and Pains
Certain types of arthritis and other joint pain can be triggered by cold and wet weather. As a massage therapist I love to work on winter aches and pains and teach humans how to ease and comfort with bodywork. There are acupressure points that target specifically these types of pain and massage in general keeps joints lubricated. I love a product from “Achy Paws”, an activated charcoal sleeping mat that uses your animal’s body to create a natural heating pad that soothes muscles and warms joints. These are machine washable and appreciated by dogs and cats alike.
Massage and Reiki:
A session with a Certified Animal Massage Therapist (CAMT) and/or Reiki practitioner can offer suggestions, help and practical solutions for the season. Massage itself is stimulating. There are many techniques the humans can learn to support health, pain relief and vitality and many CAMTs will also provide advice on calming supplements and strategies if reduced activity, travel or the cold are making your companions anxious.
Our animal companions add warmth to our cold and dark seasons and there are so many easy things we can do to thank and boost them in the winter months.
Melanie Powers is a certified Animal Massage Therapist and Reiki master practitioner with Sweet Energy Animal Massage and Reiki serving Cape Cod, the Islands and the South Shore communities.
Visit her website to learn more about Sweet Evergy Animal Massage and Reiki: