Hard to believe fall is here, and we have already had a taste of snow! A lot of us are now scurrying around covering plants and outdoor furniture, checking eavestroughs, making appointments for snow tires, and on the list goes. Personally, I love making lists and checking everything off; all the running around and work involved – not so much. But we take the time because we don’t want to deal with unwanted hassles in the months to come. When it comes to our pets, this is a good time to sit down with a cup of coffee/tea and make a to-do list for our pets before the cold weather creeps in.

Internal health – has my pet been to the vet in the past year? If not, it’s time for a check-up. Nobody wants a sick pet, and your vet wants to help you keep your pet healthy at home! This is also a good time to review and update vaccines. Pets that will travel down South, be going to a boarding facility or be trekking through the woods may require official certificates and/or additional vaccines. It’s best to be ready now. You can either pick up flea protection now or closer to the time if your pet(s) needs to be at a kennel or will be travelling with you! If your pet nine years of age or older, when was full bloodwork last done? It is different from the heartworm and tick test in the spring. If you had full bloodwork done at that time – good job! If not, your older pet will benefit from regular bloodwork that helps keep tabs on inner health.

Movement – our older pets, generally speaking, any cat or dog nine years of age or older, sometimes don’t like the cold weather. They don’t like the slippery footing or how their joints get sore during the winter season. Make sure they are taking daily joint supplements, glucosamine and chondroitin, for optimal joint health. If they don’t like the footing or the feeling of salt on their pads, there are booties that they can wear. Take them to a grassy area to stretch their legs. Our dogs benefit significantly from regular outdoor exercise. Those with a lighter coat may need some coats or shorter walks. Senior pets need 5-15 minutes two to three times daily – not for weight loss, but to encourage blood flow to their joints, and maintain muscle mass, along with a myriad of other benefits. The rest of the dogs should be getting out a couple of times daily because they benefit so much from regular daily exercise – mental stimulation, heart health, stress reduction, weight management – to name but a few!

Nutrition and Hydration – Many pets will drink less in the colder weather. Canned food, replacing water more frequently or cat water fountains can encourage our furry friends to keep themselves hydrated. Very young and senior cats should be eating a higher amount of protein than their middle-aged counterparts. Keep in mind, some seniors may need to be on special food if they have ongoing health conditions. Cats with kidney disease will need less protein. Ageing pets that are behaving a little differently may benefit from a senior’s diet.

Jumpstart on the New Year – What do we need to do now so that 2019 is different, better? Do we need to start walking our pets more, brushing their teeth or getting 5 pounds off before the really cold weather sets in? These healthy habits will go a long way to keeping your pet healthy and preventing disease. Have you been putting off that dentistry or neuter or spay? Talk to your vet today about the benefits of these procedures, and get them done soon to maximize the health benefits for your pets. This is also a good time to clean and replace collars, leashes, and toys. Check the nails – when were they last trimmed? Clean all bowls thoroughly with hot, soapy water – good hygiene is important for them too!

So there we have it – a few things to do before travelling gets difficult and we want to stay inside where it’s warm. Our pets will be better cared for, and ready for 2019. Annual exams, vaccines, bloodwork, optimal nutrition and water intake along with regular exercise help our pets live lives to the fullest. Losing weight or having teeth cleaned will greatly benefit our pets and help them live longer and healthier lives. Take the time now to do a couple of extra things to prepare your pets for the cold season ahead, and indeed, you will all come out AHEAD this fall.

Written By: Dr. Rhonda Boulter, Veterinarian