24 January 2024

Winter dog health conditions: how to protect your best friend

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Our veterinary team at Weybridge Vets will often see recurring cases of a handful of winter dog health conditions, once the temperature starts to drop in Surrey. To educate owners and help them spot the symptoms of these winter health conditions in their dog, we have listed the five most common ailments we treat and how best to avoid them.

Share this article with other dog owners and download our Winter Warmer Guide for Dogs – a useful reference to keep on your phone this winter.

Download our Winter Warmer Guide for Dogs

Five common health conditions we treat in winter

1. Respiratory infections

Over winter, many dogs in Surrey will be spending more time in indoor locations due to the uncertain weather. This increase of indoor time and proximity to other dogs can lead to a spread of respiratory infections. Typical symptoms to look out for include sneezing, coughing and laboured breathing. Weybridge Vets want owners to know that respiratory infections will often require a course of antibiotic treatment and other supportive management to resolve the infection.

Kennel Cough (Canine infectious respiratory disease) is one of the most common types of respiratory infections that affects all breeds and all ages, but can be particularly nasty for young, old, and unwell dogs. Kennel cough can be picked up anywhere that is frequented by other dogs, not just in kennels, and the best form of protection is an annual kennel cough vaccination.

Contact us to book a kennel cough vaccination at our Weybridge practice.

2. Salt and chemical exposure

When the temperature drops enough for it to become icy, it is important owners understand that exposure to the salt or antifreeze used to melt both ice and snow can be toxic to dogs.

At Weybridge Vets we often see cases where a dog has walked on a path which has been thawed using salt. They will then lick their paws, ingesting the salt and can become very sick. Look out for vomiting, diarrhoea and skin irritation and get into the habit of washing your dog’s paws and tummy with warm water following a walk. Also, maybe try to stick with the old-fashioned ice scraping method when it comes to defrosting your car as antifreeze is extremely poisonous for dogs (and cats).

3. Hypothermia

Many dog breeds have adapted to winter weather. For example, winter in Surrey is usually child’s play for huskies and Alaskan malamutes. But the finer breeds, and those bred typically for hotter climates, will struggle in the colder temperatures. Weybridge Vets advises that hypothermia often occurs in dogs when their fur becomes wet, or they are exposed to cold temperatures for a long period of time. Symptoms of hypothermia in dogs include shivering, lethargy, and difficulty walking.

Hypothermia is extremely dangerous for dogs; if it isn't treated promptly, it can cause the whole body to shut down, which is life-threatening.

If you notice any of the symptoms above, bring your dog inside and wrap them in a blanket – dry them first if they are wet. Contact us on 01932 855856 and then start to warm your dog up slowly, perhaps near a fire or using a heating pad. Our experienced team of Weybridge dog vets will be able to triage whilst a plan is put in place.

4. Frostbite

Frostbite occurs on dogs when they are exposed to cold temperatures for too long and the skin and tissue layers underneath can freeze. This is particularly common during winter in dogs with thin fur and exposed skin; symptoms include swelling and discolouration of the skin. Areas to monitor are the tips of the ears, tip of the tail and their paws. Weybridge Vets will treat frostbite by slowly warming the affected area but care must be taken to not further damage the tissue.

If you suspect your dog may have frostbite, contact us straight away on 01932 855856.

5. Foreign body ingestion and toxicity

With winter comes the Christmas and New Year festivities. We know this is a common time for alcohol and chocolate to be readily available in homes, but we urge owners to keep this out of reach of dogs (and other pets). Both chocolate and alcohol are toxic to dogs and cause severe poisoning. Look out for symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, increased thirst, panting, restlessness, excessive urination, and a very high heart rate. Contact us immediately if you suspect your dog has ingested a toxic substance.

Christmas decorations can also be tempting for dogs to play with, often accidentally swallowing them. This may lead to emergency surgery so take extra care to only use appropriate decorations and monitor your dog to keep them safe.

Pre-winter health check

We recommend booking your dog in with our team for a thorough health check ahead of the colder weather so we can rule out any new underlying health conditions that could become painful for your pet.

The cold can often exacerbate a dog’s suffering caused by arthritis and joint pain. This will make exercising uncomfortable for your dog. Icy paths and muddy/snowy walks can be difficult for any dog to navigate, especially if they are struggling with a joint condition, and can result in injuries. The temperature can also increase viral infections so it’s worth ensuring your dog is up to date with their booster vaccinations – book now.

This pre-winter health check can help to ensure your pet is going into the cold festive season fighting fit and may help to identify health conditions that need treatment sooner rather than later. Contact us on 01932 855856 to book a health check for your dog, or book online, and don’t forget to download our helpful guide below.

Download our Winter Warmer Guide for Dogs

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