Sunday, October 27, 2013

Winterizing. Getting the Pets Prepared.

In southern Pennsylvania over the last few days the thermometer has taken a dive into the frosty chilly winter digits. For us the end of October signals the coming of winter, the holidays, and the approaching end of another year.

The last few weekends have been dedicated to moving plants from their sunny spots on the open deck to the steady temperate enclosure of the house.

Jackets and corduroy has replaced the t-shirts and shorts and the days grow shorter quickly.

For us the preparation for winter also includes the pets.

As the days grow colder and shorter we all spend more and more time sleeping. For Jekyll sleeping is a coveted art form that he excels at. To get him ready for winter we exchange the cotton sheets for flannel, and his reflective collar (or Halloween collar) and monitor him with with the close eye of a paranoid worrisome mom. The fall brings out the hunters and Jekyll lacks the ability to distinguish welcomed guests from men with guns who are not out in the woods to meet small friendly beagle puppies.

Whether its fleece, flannel or faux fur, Jekyll knows how to stay warm and comfie!

A 18 years old Savannah needs a jacket to keep her warm. As all pets age they lose muscle mass and fat. These are super important to keep you warm. I also keep a harness on her. The harness helps her stay upright and walk easier. She has lost a significant amount of muscle in her back legs so the extra support and guidance through a harness that is directly around her primary legs to provide her ambulation is key.

Normal dogs carry about 60% of their body weight on their front legs, For Savannah I would estimate that this number is actually much higher. When we pick her up and place her down we use her harness as a handle. It prevents her from tea kettling over. It also makes her feel much more secure when being handled.

Savannah gets her fleece jacket with reflective collar so she is easily visible in lower light although she is NEVER off leash. She wanders and doesn't hear or see well anymore.  She also gets a thorough end of summer grooming to remove any shedding hair and keep her skin healthy under the jackets.

Remember to change your dogs jackets daily. Sores from chaffing and laying on bony joints happen and a jacket will keep them covered and hidden. Your older pet should be monitored very closely for these.

I make sure that her nails are trimmed, her teeth are looking good and her coat is brushed and healthy.

For older dogs these things become more and more their parents responsibility.

For Savannah  the maintenance of coat, nails, and teeth is my job. Her ability to walk is hard already due to her decreased muscle mass, arthritis and lethargy. All are normal for a dog her age. The challenge is to keep her active and happy.

For Jitterbug, my cat who found us, and refuses to become a domesticated inside only cat, I keep many places around the house where he can find shelter and warmth. He comes inside every night and on days that it is cold or rainy. But he is his own master. I worry about him and watch him very closely.

Because he is outside daily I keep him on a heartworm, flea/tick, and parasite preventative. Those pets who come and go are moving vans to transporting unwanted blood sucking parasites into your home. As the weather gets cold all creatures seek warmer options. Your home is their best choice, so try to keep them outside the front door.

The Jitterbug

For cats remember to check teeth, nails, ears, and coat. As winter approaches cats coats will get thicker and fuller. Any cat that is outside should also be checked regularly for any matted or tangled hair. Outside cats will often get burs, sticks, or other debris caught in their coat.

It is also very important to mention that all pets should be microchipped. It is your best way of getting them back home to you should they wander, be abducted, or become lost and found. 

The last signs of flowers.
The tiny specks of pink cyclamen.
Keeping the squirrel's food company.

Our biggest winterizing challenge is keeping Strawberries house warm and dry.

She is ample thick enough to ward off the subfreezing cold. But the below zero days she will stay buried in her house under a pile of straw. I tell people that my pig composts herself all winter. Inside her house with all of the windows closed and her dog door closed it is always about 50 degrees F. Inside her hay pile it is about 70. The only problem is keeping her fed, hydrated, and using the outside bathroom facilities.

If the snow falls we shovel her a path outside to keep her walkway clear. Her legs are about 6 inches long remember. She has no ability to snowshoe on little hooves. 

Can you see Strawberry?

For her snow maneuverability she does get very good traction on those little horned toes. So as the snow approaches it is important to give her a hoof trim that will keep her flat footed on the icy slippery ground.

She looses her summer hair early and as the fall advances gets a thick course hair coat. Between that and her thick skin and inches of fat she is well suited (and actually quite happy) in the winter. (Keeping her from overheating in the summer is the bigger challenge).

To keep her fed and hydrated every winter meal is made into a soupy-gruel-like consistency. This insures she is hydrated and warm.

I always make sure that she knows her food is delivered, that she is walking well, and give her a quick look over at every feeding. As soon as she is done her meal she heads back inside.

Strawberries house is cleaned, new shavings are put down in a thick layer to absorb any bathroom mishaps, and bales of straw line her whole interior. This provides a thick layer of insulation. Over the winter I pull apart the bales to provide bedding, and additional warmth.

Of course the pups always help with all of the around the house chores.

After the work is done we get to decorate! And Halloween is pumpkin time!

My mom and I with our first trunk load of pumpkins!

Decorating the front gate.

Our second load of pumpkins!
Delivered by Pumpkin Santa and his helper in the farm vehicle.

And the front porch (aka dog perch porch).

My best model, Wren.
She is always by my side, and in almost every picture.
Like it or not..(I Love it!)

Have a wonderful fall everyone! 

If you have any pet questions you can find me, and a whole bunch of talented others, at

1 comment:

  1. You really have a pet pig named Strawberry?!? LOL!!!