Furry friends provide companionship as well as promote good health.

Pet's Place
Furry friends provide companionship as well as promote good health.

Animals have always been an important part of my family. My first puppy, a gift when I was a baby, turned into a fine hunting dog for my grandfather, who trained him. He also became my devoted companion for the next 16 years.

I've never been without a pet. These days, our home is ruled by a quartet of orange feline siblings taken in after their mother died and hand-fed by my children. Now 2 years old, these animals have absolutely no idea that cats are supposed to be aloof. All four crave attention, and I love it when one climbs onto my lap or snuggles close while I read or watch TV.

Reason To Get Active
Most cats don't take kindly to being walked on a leash. Dogs, on the other hand, usually love it, and you can get some great exercise by taking your dog on regular walks. Before heading out, be sure your pet has a properly fitted collar with identification and a sturdy leash. Shorthaired dogs are especially susceptible to cold, so sweaters or other coverings will keep them warm and ward off health hazards such as hypothermia.

Throwing a ball for your dog is also a wonderful workout for him, and it keeps you moving as well. After playtime in wet winter weather, check paws and ears for ice crystals that could signal frostbite. If you suspect your pet has frostbite or has developed hypothermia (shivering, low breathing rate, unresponsiveness), seek veterinary care immediately.

Cold-Weather Pet Care
Bring all pets inside when the temperature falls below 20 degrees. Shorthaired dogs and cats should be brought inside when the temperature dips below 40 degrees. It's important to remember that cleaner is warmer. Hair and fur insulate, and if it's clean, it does a better job.

Active pets need more calories in cold weather, so they may require more food. Inactive pets may need less food. Keep water bowls filled, checking outside water frequently to make sure it's not frozen. A pet's tongue can stick to cold metal, so use ceramic or heavy plastic bowls.

Healthy Benefits

  • Few things are more calming than stroking the soft fur of a cat or dog. Caring for an animal can also help take your mind off daily pressures and combat stress.
  • If you live alone, a furry friend can reduce feelings of loneliness. Studies have also shown that pets help relieve depression, especially that which affects older adults.
  • If you have a dog, you have great incentive--and a barking reminder--to enjoy the outdoors often by taking walks.