Some areas experience the picture-perfect winter snows, complete with hot chocolate and a roaring fire. While I’m happy with breaking out the hot chocolate at any time of the year, here in Georgia we aren’t usually experiencing the cold and snow that sweeps across our northern neighbors. Although we do have our occasional freeze and cold snap, by and large we can enjoy pretty mild winters here in the South.
What does that mean for pet owners? Well, while the dangers of winter weather are not as prevalent here, there are some dangers still lurking in the autumnal and winter shadows.
Sudden drops in temperature
Here in the land of mild winters, the chances of a cold snap taking us by surprise are higher, since most of the time the weather is fine for outdoor pets. If temperatures plummet overnight, however, we aren’t likely to know about it until the next morning, which couldn’t be soon enough for an outdoor pet wanting to come inside out of the cold.
The best preparation against this situation is of course providing sufficient shelter to our outdoor pets all the time. Give them the options they need to stay as warm as they need to this winter, regardless of how warm it seems outside right now. Also, look ahead and be aware of freezing warnings and indications of falling temperatures. Bring your pets inside for the night if you think it’s going to get really cold.
Fleas and ticks
Aside from cold snaps, a mild winter also presents quite a few problems with pests. Many pets and pet owners look forward to the winter because the cold is the best all around treatment for pests like ticks and fleas. Cold weather severely depletes the pest population, provides some relief from infestations, and keeps them at bay until the spring. However, if temperatures don’t drop low enough for long enough, the bugs that plagued your pet in the summer will continue to live on through the fall and winter. You may find it necessary to continue giving your pet treatments for fleas, ticks, and other pests year round.
There are several reasons why continuous treatment might be a good idea in a warm winter. It’s always easier to prevent a problem rather than trying to solve it after it’s gotten out of hand. If you never stop checking and treating your pets for fleas and ticks, you’ll save yourself the headache of treating an infestation later on. Beyond infestations and discomfort, you’ll also be protecting your pet against the more serious health consequences of pests, such as Lyme disease and heartworms. Remember, a mild winter also means that the fleas and ticks can keep multiplying, so by spring you’re guarding against many more pests than you usually would after a cold winter.
Even if you live at a higher altitude or in an area that catches colder temperatures in the South, you’d do well to keep protecting your pet against pests. In addition to the everyday interactions your pet will have with other animals, around the holidays it’s more likely for families and family pets to get together. Especially if you have family who are bringing pets from warmer climates, you’ll want to protect against any parasites they may be carrying. Remember that even if it’s cold outside, with the heater cranked up indoors, fleas and ticks are just as able to keep thriving inside your home.
A mild winter will affect the wild animal population in your area. Whereas some animals would usually migrate or hibernate during winter, in a mild year, those animals may continue to stay active in your area. Stay vigilant about keeping wild animals away from your house and pet so you can avoid any spread of diseases or pests from wild animals. Goodies and food are a big part of the winter season. It’s a good idea to be mindful about how long food is sitting out in the trash. It could be the primary attractor of wild animals to your house, especially if their natural food sources have disappeared over the winter.
Another important thing to consider during a mild winter is problems with allergens. If a winter is mild, then the fall allergens will linger longer and the spring pollens take flight sooner. If you know your pet suffers from allergies, keep a close eye on them so you can relieve their allergies as soon as they crop up.
In the end, no matter what time of year it is, the best policy is to stay in tune with your pet’s needs. Mild or otherwise, you can make this winter safe and happy for your pet.