Brrrr! Baby it’s cold outside, so take care!

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Dr Smriti R Dutta
Kindness is like snow, it beautifies everything it covers– Khalil Gibran Enjoy a cup of hot coffee in this sweater weather with your furry friend and read about common health problems in winters. With our 100th issue we are taking responsible pet parenting a step further and appreciate your kindness towards furry friends. –by Dr Smriti R Dutta

Whether it is summer, winter, or rains, pet parents are always most concerned about their pet’s wellbeing and health. Winters can bring a host of health related issues for your canine companions. The weather conditions, temperature and type of shelter a pet has access to, can make a big difference in preventing cold weather health problems. The most important thing is not to leave your pets outdoors.
Read on to know about some other common health problems that the cold weather brings.

Dilemma of hypothermia
Hypothermia is one of the most common problems that occur due to extreme cold weather. It is caused due to low body temperature. Temperature below dog’s normal body temperature (between 101°F and 102.5°F), and cat’s normal body temperature (between 100.5°F and 102.5°F) can be considered as hypothermia. Hypothermia includes paleness of skin, shivering, and lethargy. When sustained for too long, hypothermia can be fatal leading to coma, heart failure, and multiple organ failure. Hypothermia may also occur due to wet fur in cold weather or submersion in cold water for long periods of time, or cold water baths.

As soon as you suspect that your pet has hypothermia, try to keep them warm by wrapping them in blankets. You can also provide heating pads or hot water bottle for extra warmth and comfort. Just make sure it’s not too hot and not directly on the skin to avoid the risk of burns.

Check your pet’s temperature every 15 minutes, once it is above 100°F, remove the hot water bottle to avoid overheating and take him to your vet for best treatment.

Frostbite
Frostbite is another health problem that occurs due to cold weather. Frostbite in pets can vary from mild to severe, and primarily occurs on the extremities, tips of your pet’s tails, ears, and toes. The severity of frostbite depends on the exposure of pets to outdoors in the cold temperatures, snow or ice.

Frostbite and hypothermia usually go paw-in-paw, though frostbite isn’t as commonly life-threatening as hypothermia, unless it goes septic due to infection. Frostbite involves pale skin; the area becomes bluish white which is a sign of restricted blood flow.

Pale and hard skin on their tails, ears & toes and nose that become red and swollen when warm are signs of first degree frostbite. Second degree leads to blisters on their skin, and third degree is a darkening of the skin over time, making gangrene a risk.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it is best to keep your pet warm. Make sure the heat is not directly applied on their skin. Protect their paws with boots; make them wear a sweater for added warmth. Never massage the frostbitten area but you can pat it with a warm dry towel and immediately contact your vet. If not treated early, frostbite can cause severe pain and tissue damage as well.

Painful arthritis
Arthritis is a common health problem in young and old aged pets during the cold weather. It causes chronic inflammation and pain in the joints. Over time this erodes the cartilage, which means bones rub against bones leading to more pain. Your pet will keep on limping, slowing down, and have difficulty in getting up and sitting.
Make sure your pet maintains a healthy weight to avoid extra pressure on joints.

If your pet is old or already has mild arthritis, you can make some lifestyle changes like joint support supplements provide soft and comfortable bedding, and a diet that maintains healthy cartilage and joints.

Respiratory infection and breathing problem
This is also a common health problem of pets during winters and can lead to pneumonia as well. Some of the symptoms are – high fever, restlessness, labored breathing, watery discharge from eyes and nostrils, coughing, loss of appetite.

Get in touch with your vet for proper care and treatment if you notice any of these signs and symptoms.

Burp, burp! Indigestion in winters
Although indigestion is not a disease, it is a health problem that is associated with various digestive issues. It can cause upset stomach, gas and flatulence, loose motions, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Just like in humans, indigestion in canines can be a result of overeating, constipation, or due to heavy worm infestation.

As soon as you suspect that your pet is not showing interest in food, immediately contact your vet.

Vomiting
Vomiting is a common problem in pets but it is not a disease itself. It can be due to an infection or any other disease. If your pet is vomiting frequently, take him to the vet immediately. Ignoring vomiting can lead to serious problems and even leave your pet dehydrated.

Woes of winter allergies
Winter seasonal allergies can affect your pet’s skin, coat, and breathing. The allergens are usually airborne, which causes sneezing, runny nose, and itchy and watery eyes. There might be dry, irritated itchy skin, excessive scratching and licking of skin and feet.

Since there is limited fresh air during homes in winter, allergens like dust mites or molds even in small quantities can trigger an allergic reaction in pets. These seasonal allergies can easily be treated and managed by your vet. If you notice any of the above mentioned symptoms, contact your vet for further advice.

Winter shedding, or should we call it emitting fibers of love
Honestly shedding is one of the most frustrating aspects most pet parents complain about. But seasonal shedding is completely normal. The increased shedding is to make room for fresh coats to keep your pet warm and fuzzy. Interestingly for pets that primarily live indoors, it is difficult for their body to recognize the change of season; therefore they shed all the year round. Routine grooming and balanced nutrition with a coat supplements are essential factors in staying on top of the shedding game.

Whether your pet is having any problem or not, scheduling routine veterinary checkup early in the cold season is highly recommended. You should also talk to your vet about any seasonal vaccination your pet might need, de-worming, and nutritional supplements to keep your pet healthy.

Moms to be and senior doggies need extra care in winter, so shower them with lots of love and warmth!

(Dr Smriti Rekha Dutta is programme director at JBF (Just Be Friendly) and clinician at Hiyaa (clinic & surgical centre for pets), Guwahati, Assam)

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