Most Common Winter Diseases in Cats and Dogs

When the temperature drops outside, we all rush to our warm and cozy homes to avoid the cold winter air. But sometimes we forget that our cuddly pet friends are accustomed to warm temperatures too.


Both cats and dogs need special care in cold temperatures to stay healthy. Leaving them outside or during their walks in cold weather could put them at risk of developing serious diseases. Read on to learn more about these diseases, and some simple tips to help avoid cold-weather health hazards.


  • Hypothermia

This is a condition of abnormally low body temperature. Hypothermia in cats and dogs is caused by exposure to freezing temperatures over a long period. This is a serious condition that pets face in the winter season which can be even more severe if they’re already suffering from other ailments. If their fur is wet and soggy and combined with the outside cold, it can freeze them and cause hypothermia.

Symptoms of hypothermia include:

  • Shivering
  • Listlessness
  • Lethargy
  • Slow heart rate
  • Slow breathing rate

If your pets display any of these symptoms, you should take their body temperature with a rectal thermometer. If the reading is below 95 degrees Fahrenheit then hypothermia has already set in. In this case, take your pet to a vet immediately. In the meantime wrap them in a warm blanket or towel-wrapped hot water bottle to increase their body temperature. Protect your pets from hypothermia during the cold winter months by sheltering them 24/7.



When you take your dog out make sure that you cover them with a sweater or jacket to keep their fur dry.

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Dog with coat in the snow


  • Frostbite

Exposure to extreme cold could sometimes result in frostbite. It is a severe condition which is even more dangerous to pets than hypothermia. The cold temperature causes tissue damage to the skin.

Frostbite can be minor to severe depending on how long your pet has remained outside, and on the thickness of their fur. Body parts with little hairs like ears, nose, tail, and toes are more susceptible than the remaining body. Symptoms of frostbite depend upon the degree of the disease:

  • First Degree: In first-degree, the skin becomes pale, bluish-white that feels cold, and when warmed, the skin swells up and turns red.
  • Second Degree: More severe than the first, this degree of frostbite results in blisters forming on the skin.
  • Third Degree: The most severe case of frostbite causes the skin on the affected area to turn dark, and gangrene may develop there.

Frostbite occurs because of a lack of blood circulation in the affected area. It’s best to warm up your pet with a warm, moist towel as this will help to stimulate blood circulation.



Don’t rub or massage the pet’s skin to warm it up as this will worsen the tissue damage, and cause them pain.

Rainbow Bridge



In cases of severe frostbite where the pet’s skin turns dark, take them to a vet immediately. They can administer painkillers and antibiotics to provide relief to the pet. The best way to keep your dogs and cats safe from frostbite is not to let them stay outside for too long in freezing cold temperatures. Also, keep their fur and skin dry, and dress them in pet-friendly outerwear during their time outdoors.


  • Anti-Freeze Poisoning

Cats and dogs both love to lick up anti-freeze because of the chemical ethylene glycol which gives it a sweet taste. They usually lick the spilled liquid from the garage floor or sometimes get a taste of it in the streets and sidewalks.

Inside homes, anti-freeze is usually used in bathrooms to winterize pipes, and sometimes pets lick the liquid out of toilet bowls. This liquid can be life-threatening to them if they swallow it. So, it’s critical always to keep such chemicals in a cupboard or somewhere out of the reach of pets. Also, it’s a good idea to wipe their paws each time you come back from a walk outdoors.

Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning in pets include:

  • Wobbly walking
  • Drunken-like behavior
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Coma in worst case scenarios

If your pet displays any such signs, and you suspect antifreeze poisoning, take them instantly to a vet for emergency treatment.


  • Common Cold

Winters and colds go hand-in-hand, and just like humans, pets can catch a cold too. Pets can get sick from the freezing temperatures just the same as we do. Symptoms of the common cold in cats and dogs include:

  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Lethargy
  • Slight cough
  • Mild fever
  • Loss of appetite

These symptoms aren’t severe, and they will subside within a couple of days. Meanwhile, feed them warm food, and allow them plenty of rest. 

But if the symptoms don’t go away despite proper care or your pet is coughing more, this is an indication that the infection has spread. At this point, you want to take them to the vet. Sometimes antibiotics are required to deal with a stubborn cold, but the coughing could be indicative of a more severe condition like pneumonia.


Dog in the snow, Winter Diseases in Cats and Dogs


Tips to Protect Your Pets from Winter Diseases

While winter diseases in cats and dogs may sound scary, but avoiding them and keeping your pet safe and warm is easy. Here are a few tips you can follow:

  • Protect your pet’s paws from ice and snow by putting booties on them.
  • If your pet starts limping during their walk, check for snow or ice between their toes. Afterward, apply a little bit of petroleum jelly to soothe their paws.
  • Just as with a hot summer day, never leave your pet in the car during freezing weather. Your car can turn into a refrigerator, and if left for too long, your pet can freeze to death.
  • Always wipe your pet’s paws after every walk. Ice melts on the streets and sidewalk can dry their paws, and crack their skin.
  • Buy a sweater for your pet when taking them out for a walk. An extra layer will keep their skin and fur dry and warm.

During the winter months, we take extra precautions from getting sick. We have to do the same for our pets as well to keep them safe from winter diseases.



Related Article: Pet Allergy: Tips to Reduce the Irritating Allergy Symptoms