Five conditions to watch out for
Similar to people, cats and dogs are more likely to get sick in the winter months.
Each winter we see an increase in pet insurance claims for illnesses (and sometimes accidents) related to the colder and wetter weather. These include joint problems, and fireplace injuries.
As pet parents, it’s essential we’re aware of common winter illnesses that can affect our beloved pets and understand how to prevent them. ‘Paws’ for thought as winter bites. Here are five common winter pet conditions and illnesses, and tips on how to prevent them:
Reduced water intake and less frequent urination can lead to the formation of crystals or stones.
Cats can get stress cystitis if they are reluctant to toilet outside in bad weather and they are more likely to get blocked bladders when they can't urinate.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Frequent urination
- Urinating in unusual places
- Appearing pained when urinating
- Excessive licking
- Bloody urine
If your pet displays these signs, take them to your vet immediately.
- Ensure your pet has access to plenty of fresh, room-temperature water to encourage hydration
- Provide an indoor or sheltered litter box
- Take your dog outside for regular ‘bathroom breaks’ so that it becomes a habit
There can be significant costs relating to the management of bladder problems. Between April 2022 and March 2023, we paid out over $72,000 in claims for UTIs.
When cold weather bites, people, cats and dogs will seek out the warmth of fireplaces, space heaters and other heat sources. Make sure your pet doesn’t snuggle up too close to heaters, or for too long! Heat-related injuries like burns can and do happen to pets as well as people.
Consider putting a sturdy screen or gate around fireplaces and log burners to keep your pet at least one metre away from flames and the intense heat these can give out. Never leave your pet unattended near naked flames (including candles).
Keep space heaters out of reach where they can’t be knocked, pulled over or have curious paws inserted into them.
Winter weight gain
Chilly weather and shorter daylight hours mean we are all – pets included – less inclined to spend time outdoors exercising. As a result, cats and dogs are more likely to put on weight during winter.
Health and wellness issues associated with obesity include diabetes, cardiac and respiratory problems, joint problems and even higher rates of cancer.
- If your pet doesn’t mind the cold weather, keep up their regular outdoor exercise time. Alternatively, play indoor games with your pet (like tag and tug-of-war) to keep them mentally and physically stimulated.
- Talk to your veterinarian about the appropriate diet and portion sizes for your pet, taking their current activity levels into account.
During the colder months, many of us enjoy tucking into comfort food and winter warmers. But giving your pet leftovers or off-cuts from your meal can cause serious health conditions. Fatty and salty foods, like the leftovers from a roast dinner, can be particularly problematic, causing conditions like pancreatitis.
The symptoms of pancreatitis include:
Pancreatitis is a serious condition requiring urgent veterinary treatment.
Don’t feed your pet fatty foods and make sure you keep leftovers (and other tempting ‘treats’) out of your pet’s reach. For more information on human foods not safe for the fur family, make sure to check out Paws Off!.
Winter walks with your furry friend are a great way to keep you both active but winter weather can be harsh on your pet’s skin. Cold air and moisture from rain or snow can cause dermatitis (skin inflammation), dry and itchy skin, flaky skin, hair loss and even painful sores. Exposure to chemicals used to de-ice roads and pavements can also irritate your pet’s skin and paws.
- After playing or walking outside, make sure your pooch is completely dry
- Use pet-safe booties, or wipe their paws after they’ve been outside
- Talk to your veterinarian about pet-safe skin moisturisers, shampoos or supplements which can help keep your pet’s skin in tip-top condition during the colder months
Remember that older pets are more vulnerable to cold weather
Colder temperatures can aggravate health problems for older pets, such as aching joints or arthritis. Older pets need special attention and care during the winter months.
Winter tips for senior pets:
- Beware of wet, icy and slippery surfaces, particularly if your older cat or dog is unsteady on their paws.
- Ensure your pet has somewhere warm and comfortable to curl up in. The ideal pet bed is raised slightly, away from cold drafts.
- Wrap them up! A good-fitting jacket is a great way to keep your dog warm on winter walks. Consider shortening the length of winter walks and activities and don’t go out in bad weather – play at home instead.
Winter is a great time for cuddling up with your furry bestie and for exploring the different smells, sounds and sights the change in season brings. By being vigilant about common winter ailments and knowing how to prevent them, you can keep your pet safe, happy and healthy this winter.