Taking care of small pets can be a challenge. However, when cold weather arrives, it can become even more difficult. Small rodents as pets, such as hamsters, gerbils, and mice, require increased care in the fall and winter months. Seasonal pet tips can be used to your advantage, providing information that will assist you in the habitat and care for small pets in Southeastern Massachusetts and the surrounding northeastern region. Other small pets, including rabbits, ferrets, exotic animals, and even small cats and dogs, should also receive additional care during this time of year to ensure that they stay warm and healthy. For best results, speak with a reputable veterinarian at our Dartmouth vet hospital.
Seasonal Pet Tips for Outdoor Pets
If you have a rabbit hutch outdoors or a cat who likes to stay outside during the summer months, consider bringing them indoors during the fall and winter months. It can be too cold with even the average New England winter, let alone an intensely cold season. Bringing a hutch or habitat area into a car-free garage, shed, or other warmed spaces can make a big difference in the health and wellbeing of your pet. Do not keep a pet in a garage where a car will be driven inside or started up, as the fumes could be fatal to small pets.
If you cannot bring your pet in, make sure that the hutch is in an area that is sheltered from the rain and snow. Provide an extra source of warmth, such as a blanket or tarp that can help to increase build-up of heat inside the hutch. Extra bedding, such as hay, as well as an animal-safe heat pad that can be added underneath the bedding area, can make a big difference. Consider wrapping up water bottles to prevent them from freezing and keep your outdoor pets healthy by providing them with natural light and exercise throughout the season.
Seasonal Pet Tips for Indoor Pets
Just because your pet lives indoors with you doesn’t mean that they don’t require extra care during cold weather as well. Most of the tips that you will find online about habitat and care for small pets will not include temperature beyond stating “room temperature” or recommendations to keep them out of air conditioning drafts or direct sunlight. Move indoor pets that are caged, such as rats, mice, hamsters, gerbils, and even Guinea pigs, away from any vents so they won’t get too much heat and dryness from the central heating system. Make sure they are not near any drafty doors or windows, as the extra coldness could be dangerous.
Provide extra bedding so your pet can snuggle in and keep warm on cold days, just as you would for outdoor pets or yourself. Keep pets away from dangerous indoor fumes, such as wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, portable heaters, and non-stick frying pans. These items could harm small pets, so make sure to keep them in a separate room away from them for continued safety. Small cats and dogs can benefit from extra bedding or sweaters to stay warm in the fall and winter months. A pet-safe heat pad can also be used underneath bedding to increase warmth as needed.
How Cold is Too Cold?
When it comes to most small pets, any temperatures that fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit can pose a danger to their health. This is especially true for very young or senior pets, which are already at a much higher risk of developing bacterial or viral infections. The cold weather can result in a suppressed immune system, and very cold temperatures pose a threat of hypothermia in small rodents as pets, rabbits, Guinea pigs, and even small cats and dogs. Never position a space heater or heating vent to point directly at your pet’s cage, or you could overheat your pet by accident. Some pets, particularly those in metal cages, have suffered from burns due to the overheated cage material during the winter months.
Specific cage heaters may also be used to keep your pet warm. Do not use heating pads that are designed for humans, as they are not safe. They may have an automatic shut-off that could leave your pet freezing cold in the middle of the night. Heaters that are designed for reptile cages that are self-regulating but do not shut-off completely can be a much safer option. If you are unsure, consider speaking with your veterinarian about the habitat and care for small pets when you visit our Dartmouth vet hospital. Our team is knowledgeable and experienced when it comes to keeping small rodents as pets, as well as many other small exotic animals. Give us a call at 508-996-3731 to schedule an appointment or to speak with our staff about your concerns.