Published in the November 9 – 22, 2016 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Jeanne Haggerty-Arcay

Dr. Jeanne Haggerty-Arcay

Dr. Jeanne Haggerty-Arcay

We all do some preparations for ourselves and our home as we head into winter. We clean gutters, put up holiday decorations, make sure the heater is working and pull out the winter clothes and boots. But do we have the pets prepared?

Cold winters can be very difficult for older pets, especially large dogs. They often struggle with arthritis, which can be significantly worse during the colder months. But we do have some ways that we can help these older pets have a more comfortable season.

Consistent and mild exercise, especially walks, will help them stay mobile, keep their joints moving and help keep them at a healthy weight. Adding non-slip rugs to the house if you have slick flooring can help pets with mobility issues. This will be of great help when they are trying to get up from lying down and works well around food and water bowls where the floor may become wet and extra slippery.

Talk to your veterinarian about trying non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication and glucosamine, which makes many of these dogs much more comfortable. Outdoor cats and dogs need to have a shelter where they can go in the cold for protection from the elements. Commercially built igloos work well with bedding on the bottom.

You can also build a dog house or other structure to protect your pet. Feed your pet in the shelter to help them get used to it and let them known that it is a safe place to go. Pets that live in garages or barns also need a little extra protection in the winter. Put down a warm bed, extra blankets or a crate for extra shelter from the cold.

Although it can be difficult to get yourself out of the house on some of these cold or rainy days, it is still important to make sure that your pet gets adequate exercise. If the dog park is wet and mucky, go for a short walk. Your pet will like the stimulation and it will help prevent them from gaining weight during the winter.

If you plan to travel with your pet over the holidays, plan ahead. If your pet is staying at home, look for a reputable pet sitter who can come to the house or talk to friends about local boarding facilities.

If you are going to kennel your pet, be sure that your pet’s vaccinations are current and meet the requirements for that facility. Not all facilities have the same requirements. If you are traveling with your pet, consider whether or not your pet may benefit from sedation (or whether the people sitting around you may benefit from your pet being sedated). Traveling via air or out of state (even in a car) requires a health certificate which needs to be issued by your veterinarian and forwarded to the USDA. Plan ahead to schedule your appointment and have all of your paperwork in order.


Keep in mind that many of the foods (chocolate, candy, steaks, prime rib) we eat at the holidays can make your pet sick and can even be fatal.

Keep holiday foods out of reach from your pet and refrain from sharing. Decorations are also very tempting. Both dogs and cats like to eat ornaments, lights, ribbon, bows and all sorts of decorations.

Keep them out of reach as much as possible and keep your eye out for any pet that may have a little too much interest in the holiday decorations … that could mean trouble!

Dr. Jeanne Haggerty-Arcay earned her undergraduate degrees in biology, biochemistry and Spanish from the College of Notre Dame, Belmont. She graduated from U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. She enjoys spending time with her husband and three young children.