As happens to people, the risk of pets suffering from various ailments also increases in winter.
On one hand are the respiratory diseases, and although dogs and cats don’t suffer from the “flu” per se, there are other diseases that weaken them and which require attention to prevent them.
For dogs, the most common sicknesses during winter are Canine Distemper and Infectious Tracheobronchitis. Cats in turn may be affected by Feline Respiratory Disease Complex, a condition caused by various infectious agents.
These illnesses interact with the immune system and are very contagious, but vaccines are available for their prevention. Although even vaccinated animals may get sick, the condition will generally be milder, with a better prognosis for recovery.
Canine Distemper, sometimes termed “Hardpad Disease”, is caused by a virus that may be acquired any time of year, but it is characterized by its good resistance to cold temperatures, even those below zero, which is why it is more frequent during winter. Dogs present very high fever spikes, and respiratory symptoms range from mucus in the snout to severe pneumonia. It also causes damage to the skin, digestive system and even the nervous system. This is a very serious disease and successful treatment is very uncertain, so early vaccination and annual boosters are very important.
Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis is a disease that may be mistaken for Distemper at the onset because of the respiratory symptoms, but unlike Hardpad, Infectious Tracheobronchitis is limited to a respiratory condition. The acute and loud cough, along with its high contagiousness, is an aspect that characterizes this disease. This is why it is called “kennel cough”, because places with a high concentration of animals (parks, pet groomers, kennels, breeding grounds, etc.) favor contagion. Vaccination and boosters help prevent this disease, especially intranasally administered vaccines.
Feline Respiratory Complex in turn can affect cats of any age and at any time of year, although winter and stressful situations can weaken local defenses and leave them prone to the disease. A combination of viruses and bacteria can trigger this condition. Symptoms range from conjunctivitis and sneezing to pneumonia. Cats stop eating and may have tongue ulcers. This is a very contagious disease, and kittens are
especially vulnerable. Vaccination is essential to prevent infection, or to render the disease milder if present.
In all cases, we should avoid abrupt temperature changes, because this confuses the immune system and diminishes its ability to respond. Also keep in mind that younger and older animals, as well as patients with heart or asthma conditions, are more prone.
Respiratory diseases in these more vulnerable groups can have serious outcomes, which is why keeping their health plan always up to date is crucial.
On the other hand are the parasites, both internal and external. We must keep in mind that internal parasites complete different cycles that continue during the winter season, and many of them can affect humans. External parasites such as fleas and ticks also thrive in winter, even when they aren’t seen on the animal. The immature forms found in beds, armchairs or carpets “wake up” with indoor heating and start biting. Additionally, pets spend more time at home, either because they seek shelter or because of the owner’s preference. For all these reasons, it is very important for dogs and cats to continue internal and external parasite treatments during the cold months as well.
Let’s not forget that, just like people, dogs and cats can have a hard time getting through the winter. The care and timely prevention we provide will make a difference.
Tips for protecting your pet during winter:
- Check with your pet’s health plan with your veterinarian.
- Update the annual vaccination boosters according to the corresponding schedule.
- Reinforce their vaccines in case of disease “outbreaks”.
- Avoid abrupt temperature changes.
- Try to walk your pet at the least cold times of the day.
- Deworm your dog or cat both internally and externally every month.
- Provide protection and shelter from the cold at all times.