Keep pets healthy during winter


Maintaining general year-round practices to keep pets healthy is important, but sometimes winter can make that challenging, according to experts.

A local veterinarian of the Zionsville and Carmel VCA Companion Animal Medical Center at 55 Brendon Way, Suite 900, Zionsville, Dr. Lauren Wood offers suggestions on how to keep pets healthy during the winter.

Wood said winter poses heightened risks associated with colder temperatures, especially with dogs frequently taken outside for walks.

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Veterinarian Lauren Wood with her dog, Annie. Photo courtesy of VCA Companion Animal Medical Center.

“Short-haired, very young and senior dogs are at greatest risk for problems related to exposure to cold,” Wood said. “It’s important to remember pet paws, like human hands and faces, are susceptible to frostbite.”

Salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice have varying degrees of toxicity and can burn pets’ feed pads and mouths if the pads are licked, Wood said.

Wood said foot pads are tough but can be injured on cold, icy surfaces. Wood suggests “soothing their pads” after winter walks by soaking the foot in room-temperature water.

“If the pads become discolored or the tissue under the pad becomes exposed, contact your veterinarian. Severe injuries need to be treated professionally,” Wood said.

As for viral infections in the winter, Wood said treatment is largely supportive and encouraged, but preventative steps can also be helpful.

“It is important that your pet be kept in a warm, dry area away from other pets, fed a high-quality diet and kept well-hydrated during illness,” Wood said. “Good nutrition and care are crucial in ensuring that pets mount an adequate immune response and can help promote faster recovery.

“In many cases, warming up your pet’s food with a little water or broth may help to encourage them to eat when they are sick.”

Wood said when pets have congestion, she recommends steam therapy to help thin and loosen the congestion.

“All you need to do is put your pet in the bathroom with you the next time you take a steamy shower and give them about 10 to 15 minutes of breathing in the moist air,” Wood said. “Repeating this method two to three times a day will encourage the congestion to drain.”

Having pets evaluated by veterinarians when sick can help keep them healthy. Wood said owners can give their pets a quick and easy home exam between scheduled veterinary visits.

“It is best to perform the exam when your pet is relaxed, so catching them before a nap when sleepy is a good option,” she said. “Check on their eyes, nose, ears, teeth, and gums for any unusual sores, coloring, or drainage. Picking up on problems quickly makes them easier to remedy.”

For more, visit, located at 55 Brendon Way, Suite 900, in Zionsville.