January is Walk Your Pet Month. The goal of Walk Your Pet Month is to get you and your pets outside for exercise and stimulation and to change the idea of walking from a chore to fun. Going for walks with your pets can become routine and dull, but it's not the fault of you or your pet so much as it's a necessity for your pet to get outside for a while. In turn, you tend to pay less attention to your pet and surroundings and are less prepared for the unexpected. Here's some safety tips for exercising your cat or dog outside and avoiding an emergency trip to your Bend vet clinic.
1. Keep an Eye on the Temperature
Pets are designed to tolerate cold weather, but some do it better than others. Short-haired pets don't have the same insulation as their long-haired brethren and feel the cold more quickly. Exercise does generate body heat, but the inability to hold that heat makes it harder for some pets to stay warm. Keep your walks short when it's under 40 degrees for short haired pets and keep an eye on longer haired pets to make sure they're not panting excessively in higher or lower temps.
The opposite is true for warm weather. Long-haired pets can't shed the heat as easily and are prone to heat exhaustion. Keep an eye on your pet's stress levels and keep the walks shorter. You may want to consider getting your pet clipped during warmer weather to help them stay comfortable.
2. Protect Sensitive Paws From De-Icing Materials
When things get icy, people bring out the rock salt or other de-icers. The materials can get stuck between pads, dry out the skin, and even get ingested. While de-icers aren't toxic, they can cause digestive upset. Train your pet to wear booties or apply a protectant such as petroleum jelly on your pet's paws before going out. If you're not sure what to use, contact a veterinarian in Bend for advice.
3. Make Sure the Harness or Collar Fits Properly
A leash is part of a safe walk with your pet. The leash needs to connect to a collar or harness that fits right for ease of control and retention. Dogs can wear a collar, harness, or other safety restraint because their neck and shoulders are somewhat rigid. Cats need a vest or harness because they're more flexible in the neck and shoulders. It's also easier to pull back a cat that's wearing a vest or harness and not choke them.
The restraint should be snug without binding and allow for free movement of your pet's body. If your pet can slip out of the restraint without much effort, it's too loose. If you're having issues finding a harness that fits, make an appointment with a dog veterinarian in Bend for help with finding a restraint that fits correctly and does the job properly.
4. Be Considerate to Your Pet's Age and Physical Condition
Pets tend to slow down with age and age-related health conditions. They still need exercise, but they should only go out for brief walks with plenty of rest breaks. Your pet may decide they have had enough, or their body hurts to a point they don't want to move further. You might wind up carrying your pet back home or waiting until they feel they're able to walk again.