The spring and summer are usually touted as “flea and tick” seasons for pets, but did you know that fleas and ticks are abundant even in cold states like New York, despite the chilly weather? A study by Cornell University researchers found that persistent snow insulates deer ticks in leaf litter, posing the highest risk for people living near the woods or in shaded landscapes. Of course, ticks are just one problem that can affect your dog (and you) when the temperature drops. Read on to discover more health issues to keep track of until sunnier days arrive.
Hypothermia and Frostbite
Very low temperatures and frosty winds can quickly lower your dog’s temperature, causing hypothermia and/or frostbite. The general rule when it comes to walks on cold days is—if it feels too chilly outside for you, it’s too chilly for your dog. To protect your dog against the cold, ensure they have a warm winter coat and try to get used to winter boots. Your dog may struggle at first, but it will eventually get used to its new footwear.
Winter boots stop snow and ice from getting lodged between your pet’s paws and causing frostbite, so they are an important ally if you live in a snowy zone. Make sure your dog has an insulated shelter and warm blankets to burrow into when they get back home. Finally, visit the groomer to keep the hair surrounding their paws short.
Arthritis and Pain
Osteoarthritis in dogs is far more common than you may imagine. A study published in the journal, Frontiers in Veterinary Science indicates that the prevalence of this disease stands at 20 percent of dogs aged over one. In the winter, your dog’s joints may be particularly stiff and painful. Talk to your veterinarian about treatments that help alleviate pain. One relatively new, effective type of medication (a monoclonal antibody that is given as an injection once a month) alleviates canine osteoarthritic pain, thus reducing the need to give your dog daily medication.
Antifreeze and Rat/Mouse Poison
Antifreeze can damage canines’ kidneys and cause death. Many dogs can be attracted to this toxin because it tastes sweet and can easily leak from a car radiator or spill to the ground while you are pouring it. If you are filling your engine coolant reservoir with antifreeze and you spill a little of this liquid, keep your dog away and clean and dry the ground immediately.
If you suspect your pet has licked the ground, consider it an emergency, and don’t hesitate to take him to the veterinarian. You should also make sure your dog does not have access to rat/mouse poison. Walk your dog on a lead as much as possible to stop them from unwittingly consuming a toxic substance.
Many dogs, cats, and other animals can perish if they are overridden by vehicles while they hide under tires. If you park your car outdoors, check under your car prior to starting it. Stray animals are particularly prone to this type of accident, as they have very few places where they can find warmth when the temperatures dip.
Viral Diseases like Cough, Cold, Parvovirus, and Canine Distemper
You can lower the risk of parvovirus and canine distemper for your pet by vaccinating them, but know that the vaccine itself will not make them totally immune to these and other viral diseases. Coughing and sneezing can indicate that your dog has a serious disease, such as kennel cough, heart disease, or parasites (such as heartworm and roundworm). Therefore, if your dog has a persistent cough, take him to see the vet. Know that kennel cough, in particular, is highly contagious.
It can happen quickly if your dog has been playing with other dogs who have been infected. In its early stages, it can seem like nothing serious since dogs can remain active and look energetic though they are battling this infection. However, it can lead to pneumonia and death, so don’t take it likely and make an appointment with your veterinarian.
What if It Is Just a Cold?
If your veterinarian has tested your dog and determined your dog just has a cold, make sure to care for Fido much like you would care for any other family member. Keep him warm and limit his exposure outdoors. Consider a humidifier to loosen mucus, so it can be expelled more easily.
Ensure he stays hydrated by giving him chicken broth—which has a host of vitamins and minerals and which can be more appealing to dogs than plain water. Your dog should make a full recovery within a couple of days, but make sure to monitor his condition and pay a follow-up visit to the veterinarian if he is still out of sorts after this time period.
Winter can be harsh, and dogs can suffer its consequences, much like human beings can. Keep your dog safe by limiting his exposure outdoors on very cold days. Invest in clothing and homeware that can keep your pooch warm. Finally, take him to the vet quickly if you notice signs like lethargy, coughing, and sneezing.