Keeping your dog happy and healthy this winter

Posted by Dr Dog. January 6th 2017. Tagged: Pet health, Pet well being and Winter pet care

winter dog care

It’s not only we humans who are prone to winter illnesses; our four-legged best friends can also suffer from seasonal sniffles.

We have compiled a list of common winter ailments and how you can keep your pooch happy and healthy during the colder months of the year. Read on for our winter dog care tips.

Seasonal Canine Illness

Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI) can affect our dogs during the latter half of the year. Most cases occur between August and November, though this can extend into the winter months.

The illness can affect dogs of any age, size and gender regardless of pre-existing health conditions. However, dogs can only catch it if they walk through woodland. The most common signs of SCI are sickness, diarrhoea and lethargy.

The symptoms usually become apparent within 72 hours of your pet walking through wooded areas. If your pet indicates any signs of SCI take them to your vet immediately. The illness can be fatal if not treated quickly. However, fatalities are fairly uncommon. Most dogs recover in seven-ten days with treatment.

Other than the link with wooded areas, nobody fully understands the cause of Seasonal Canine Illness.  However, prompt treatment is key to limiting the severity of this disease.

Can dogs get frostbite?

Unfortunately frostbite can be an issue for dogs during the winter, especially if they’re regularly taken on long walks during the cold mornings. Frostbite is tissue damage that occurs when dogs are exposed to extremely cold temperatures for a long period of time.

Symptoms of frostbite can occur in stages and a range of severity depending on your pet’s size, age and thickness of fur. By limiting your dog’s outdoor activity when the temperature drops below zero and ensuring that they are dried thoroughly if exposed to cold and wet weather, you can reduce your pet’s risk of developing frostbite.

Additionally, various pet-friendly winter wear is available such as coats and boots to reduce the risks of exposure. But please remember exposed areas such as tails and tips of ears can be particularly susceptible.

If you believe your dog has signs of frostbite bring them inside immediately and apply lukewarm water to the affected area. However never rub an area that appears to show signs of frostbite as this can cause severe pain.

Chemical illnesses & dog poisons

During winter, car owners are more likely to use antifreeze. Ethylene Glycol based antifreeze is extremely tempting to your dog due to its smell and sweet taste. However, the chemical is highly poisonous to your furry friend. As little as 1-2 teaspoons can be lethal to small dog breeds, such as Chihuahuas. Ensure your dog is never exposed to antifreeze by cleaning up spillages.

Alternatively, pet owners can consider a Propylene Glycol product that is much safer to use around dogs. However it can still be toxic so be careful! Ice-melting salts can also be an extreme irritant to a dog’s skin so make sure you wash their paws when they’ve been outside. If you have a smaller breed, clean their bellies as well as they are low to the ground and tend to pick up substances easily. 

Kennel Cough symptoms

Winter sees an increase in the number of instances of canine infectious tracheobronchitis, otherwise known as Kennel Cough. When owners go away during the festive period and dogs are placed into boarding kennels it can be passed from dog to dog easily, particularly with the cold weather.

If your dog appears to develop a honking type cough resembling a goose-like sound take them to your vet immediately, as this can also be a symptom of pneumonia and other severe respiratory conditions. Secondary symptoms also include a runny nose and eye discharge.

Owners can reduce their dog’s chance of developing kennel cough by ensuring vaccinations against the illness are up to date.

Can dogs get colds?

Like their owners, dogs can develop a case of the winter sniffles. Owners can reduce their dog’s risk of developing a cold by giving their immune system a boost over the winter months.

Providing them with slightly more protein-rich food can help keep their coats thick and healthy. Stick to lean proteins like cooked chicken, fish and vegetables, and don’t be tempted to overfeed your dog.

Drying your dog off thoroughly when they return home from walks and buying appropriate dog winter clothes are two more great ways of keeping them warm and dry and keeping the sniffles at bay.

If your dog does develop a cold then you can place a humidifier in the room with them or allow your pet to spend some time in a steamy bathroom to help ease congestion. However, if symptoms persist over three days take your dog to the vet to ensure the illness is nothing more severe that requires medical attention.

Winter dog walks

During winter it can be hard to provide your dog with the adequate amount of outdoor exercise that they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Breeds with short legs, such as Dachshunds and Shih-Tzus can find the winter period particularly hard if it snows heavily.

Owners can help their pet by digging a route in the garden to allow easy access for dogs to go to the bathroom. Additionally, owners can supplement outdoor activity with indoor exercise such as playtime. However, please be aware that indoor activity should never be a permanent replacement for outdoor walks. These stimulate your dog’s mind ensuring good mental health.

If your pet becomes ill in winter, make sure that you have the adequate insurance to look after them. To find out more how Argos Pet Insurance can help insure your pet, visit

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