Hands up if you are worried about keeping your animals warm right now….
Most animals are much better adapted than us, so this blog should put your mind at rest…
Horses are better designed to cope with cold weather than hot. Because of the way their digestive system works they are carrying around their own internal central heating system. Keeping their gut well stoked with plenty of forage is a more efficient way of keeping your horse warm than adding an extra rug.
So, How do you tell if your horse is warm enough?
Touching the base of his ears to judge his warmth is a myth, as is putting your hand under his rug as what you feel will depend on how warm your hands are! A horse’s exterior temperature could be as much as 28 degrees cooler than their internal temperature. They could feel cold on the outside even if they are warm on the inside. Without getting a thermometer out, your most reliable indicator is knowing your horse and watching his behaviour. Is he out in the middle of the field grazing, or tucked up under the hedge with his tail jammed between his back legs? Is he happy or bad tempered? Shivering? Charging about in the field (to keep warm)? Horses can lose weight when they are too hot or too cold and just because we feel cold doesn’t mean they do.
Chickens are kept successfully in all climates, including countries like Canada where the winter temperatures regularly hit -20. They will fluff up their feathers and huddle together to keep themselves warm. As with horses, it is important to ensure they have plenty of food and drinking water. You could increase their corn rations as this will give them the extra energy to keep warm. It may be tempting to completely shut them up in their coop or barn, but they need ventilation as the ammonia from their droppings can damage their respiratory system. If there is heavy snowfall, clear a path so they don’t have to walk on the snow to reach their food and water. Also check those with large combs for frostbite. They may need some Vaseline smoothed on to protect the bare skin.
Small breeds and those with very fine coats can shiver quite easily in the cold, especially if they spend most of their day in a warm house. If you think your dog would benefit from a coat or jumper, a design which completely covers their tummy will keep them warmest. Dogs have little, if any hair, on their tummy so this is where they lose heat the fastest.
A long or thick-coated dog will not need any extra protection and may even over heat in a coat, especially if they are wearing one while being exercised.
Our top winter tips:
To protect your dog’s paws from salted roads, and keep your water troughs flowing read our Winter Tips: