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What to do when rover feels RUFF this winter

We all enjoy walking in a winter wonderland, but as the weather gets colder, our four legged friends can become susceptible to some seasonal illnesses, just as we can.

Here are five common reasons why your pooch might have lost the spring in his step, and what you can do about it.

Kennel Cough

So-called because of the way it spreads easily in confined quarters, the proper name for this disease is tracheobronchitis.

A cough that sounds like a goose’s honk is the tell-tale symptom, and is different from the ‘reverse sneeze’ sound that is common in some breeds, such as Beagles. Your pooch may also suffer from runny eyes and nose, together with sneezing.

Like the common cold in humans, tracheobrochitis is rarely serious, however if you are concerned, take your faithful friend to the vets to get a professional opinion.

The Sniffles

Believe it or not, your dog can come down with a cold in the winter months, with very similar symptoms to the human cold – a little cough, wetter nose and generally just a little bit under the weather.

Some people say that using a humidifier, or bringing them into the bathroom while the shower is on, can help their cough. Make sure they drink plenty, and you could even feed them some low sodium chicken or beef broth to help make them feel better.

Most doggy colds will get better on their own, but do take Fido/Fifi to the vet if he or she is very young or old, if they have any pre-existing conditions that could complicate the cold, or if symptoms don’t improve in a few days.


Low body temperature caused by exposure to cold can be as dangerous to dogs as it can be to humans.

As dogs are covered in fur, the combination of wet and extreme cold is particularly dangerous as fur can freeze and cause hypothermia.

Symptoms include shivering, weakness and lack of mental alertness. Another tell-tale sign is a temperature below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. If you suspect your dog has hypothermia, then make an emergency appointment with the vet. Until you can see a professional, try and raise their body temperature with covered hot water bottles and blankets.

To prevent hypothermia, when the weather is very cold, try to limit outdoor time. Consider booties and a fleece or jacket to keep your dog warm and his fur dry.


Even though they are covered in fur, dogs can be at risk of frostbite in very low temperatures, and this can often come before hypothermia.

Areas affected by frostbite tend to be the extremities like ear tips, tail and toes. They will acquire a bluish white tinge, due to lack of blood flow to the area. When the blood returns, the area affected then turns red and swollen and starts to peel.

Prevention and treatment are similar to hypothermia; limit exposure to the outdoors in extremely cold weather or dress your dog in appropriate warm clothing. If you suspect frostbite, warm your pet with blankets or wrapped hot water bottles, and you can warm the specific areas affected with tepid – but not hot – water. Never massage the frostbitten areas, as this can be painful. Book an appointment with the vet straight away.

Antifreeze Poisoning

Ethylene glycol, which is an active ingredient in antifreeze, is also lethal if enough is ingested. It tastes sweet, so given half the chance your pooch will lick it from the garage floor or driveway.

Drunken behaviour such as unsteadiness, nausea and vomiting, seizure and coma are all signs of antifreeze poisoning. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, don’t try and administer any treatment yourself and seek veterinary attention immediately.

Make sure you store your antifreeze well out of an inquisitive hound’s way, and if you think your walk has taken you through some traces of antifreeze, give those paws a post-walk wipe.

Do you have any tips on how to care for your dog when they are ill? Share them with us on facebook or Twitter

3 January 2017

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