Prevent Illness and Keep Your Canine Companion Safe this Winter
This article is contributed by guest writer, Cindy Aldridge
When the weather gets cooler, we all become a little more aware of cold and flu season, but we may not realize that winter weather brings some of the same health risks to our dogs that it does for humans. Be on the lookout for illness and other hazards so you can be sure your dog stays safe and healthy this winter.
Health and Wellness
If your dog is due for a wellness check, don’t delay doing this as cooler weather approaches because some chronic conditions like arthritis could be made worse by cold temperatures. Winter is also a time when dogs are more susceptible to illness, just like humans. In recent years, dog flu (H3N2) has been on the rise, with larger outbreaks in some areas.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the dog flu virus is different from the H3N2 flu viruses that infect humans. It is a separate dog flu virus, but the symptoms are similar to what humans experience when we get the flu. Dogs will commonly have a cough, runny nose, fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Watch for these signs of dog flu and contact your vet if you notice them in your dog. In many cases, your dog can be treated at home with plenty of rest and water. Your vet can also give them medications to help them feel better and fluids if they become dehydrated. The dog flu is rarely fatal, and these more severe cases usually come from a secondary bacterial infection. Keep a close eye on how your dog is feeling, and never hesitate to reach out to your vet if your dog is unwell because your vet can give antibiotics if any infections arise.
Of course prevention is always the best medicine. Dog flu is extremely contagious, infecting about 80% of dogs who are exposed to it, according to Business Insider. The virus is airborne, so if you take your dog to a groomer, doggie daycare, dog park or any other place that has multiple dogs in close quarters, you need to be aware of this risk. There is a vaccine for dog flu, so you may want to discuss this with your vet. If your dog gets the flu, make sure to keep them away from other animals for a few weeks. The virus also lives on surfaces for 48 hours, so wash their bowls, beds, leashes and anything else they come into contact with.
In addition to the possibility of illness, cooler weather brings other hazards for our furry friends. Follow these tips to keep your dog safe all winter long.
- Keep them Warm: Don’t keep dogs outside when the temperature drops. Even though they have a fur coat, they are still at risk from cold temperatures. If you have a small dog or one with little fur, you may want to put a sweater on them for walks. Don’t force it if they don’t tolerate the sweater, but be especially aware of limiting their time outside when it gets very cold. Elderly pets will require special care, both indoors and outdoors, as they have more difficulty regulating their temperature.
- Be Aware of Toxic Substances: Antifreeze has a sweet taste that dogs are attracted to, but it is highly toxic, so be extremely cautious about preventing any exposure to it. According to the Humane Society, there is also a risk from salt and other chemicals used to melt snow. Dogs can suffer from salt poisoning from licking their paws. To prevent ingestion of these chemicals, always wipe down your dog’s paws with a damp cloth after a walk if they may have been exposed.
- Keep Identification and Chips Current: The American Veterinary Medical Association says that dogs are at greater risk of becoming lost in winter because snow and ice cover recognizable scents. Make sure your dog is always wearing a collar with identification and that they have a microchip with current registration.
Some winter hazards and illnesses may seem unavoidable, but by being aware of them and being proactive, dog parents can take actions to prevent illness and keep our canine companions safe this winter.