Pet column: Seasonal changes with pets |

Pet column: Seasonal changes with pets

Dawn Armstrong
Special to the Tribune

Fall officially arrives this week. Some wildlife species are packing up like human snowbirds to escape the coming winter in warmer clime. Other wild animal neighbors are getting ready to hibernate, filling their tummies like pantries to last through the change of seasons. Coats are beginning to get thicker. There are significant changes for humans and domestic pets as well.

Noticeably, natural light is decreasing. For both humans and their pets, primal sensitivities related to the change of seasons can affect health as well as behavior. There is some science that suggests light and the lack of it affects animals and people and can bring on seizures or Seasonal Affected Disorder, caused by a decrease in serotonin in the brain and blood. Proper nutrition as well as periods of exposure to sunlight help ease depression and maintain general health and fitness.

Spring is heralded with “the first” of the summer season. Fall is trumpeted with “the last” of the season – the last marathon, the last paddleboard race, the last overnight camping trip and other outdoor activities that keep us healthy together. School is back in session. For many pets that means staying home alone and being excluded from new family routines. Now’s the time to pay attention to season transition needs which include preparing for a new set of activities when Winter arrives. If pets are aging, fall is a good time to check in with the veterinarian to recognize any needed comfort changes. Winter heating pads for dogs and cats, protective gear like vests and paw boots might be in order to make the colder days and nights more bearable.

Check paws and coat for any signs of summer wear and tear. Paw pads need to be healthy for upcoming walks on snow and ice. Make sure winter coats are not cloaking summer bumps and scrapes which need help to heal. Stock up on pet-safe ice melt and antifreeze when they soon hit the shelves. Keep pets trim by reducing calories when daily hikes are replaced by quickie morning and evening walks. Look for the new lines of indoor fetch toys designed to harmlessly bounce off indoor furnishings when it’s too dark to play outside.

Watch for pet toy sales and stock up on a variety of items to keep both cat and dog freshly entertained when on their own for longer periods. Check out the so called “brain toys” which challenge cats and dogs to retrieve snacks from specially designed puzzles. Create a treasure hunt inside the house by hiding measured portions of regular food to be found all during the day. Get out of the office and take lunch at home for a mutually beneficial pet break. Help the kids stay bonded to their pets by suggesting activity like reading homework with pets as listeners. This is a proven help especially for reluctant readers. Try a session with the free “My Reading Buddy” canine listener and tutor program held year around by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society at the South Tahoe Public Library and other sites.

It’s not too early to plan for the holidays, with or without your pets along. The best boarding facilities and pet sitters are booked early for all generally observed holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you fly with your pets, space is limited and reservations need to be made as soon as possible. Check in with friends and relatives to make sure that pets will be welcome before you finalize your school break and vacation plans.

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Autumn can be a beautiful, natural transition rather than a loss of togetherness for people and their pets. All it takes is a little thoughtfulness to maintain the joy of the human-animal bond in all seasons.

– Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help “Keep Tahoe Kind”. Dawn Armstrong is the executive director.

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