Common Winter Illnesses In Pets

Our furry friends can catch cold just as we can – here are some of the most common winter illnesses in pets and how to prevent them.

Golden retriever with tongue out sat on a bed under a grey blanket

As the temperatures drop and the winter season kicks in, flu and other familiar illnesses begin making their rounds. Unfortunately, your pet can be just as likely to catch something as we are – so looking after them in the cold weather is important to help keep those winter colds at bay.


Here are some of the most common winter illnesses in pets, along with tips on preventing them and protecting your furry friends.


Common winter illnesses in pets  


Kennel cough

Kennel cough is a viral infection that can affect both dogs and cats all year round, but is more likely to become an issue during winter when pets are indoors more and in closer contact with each other.


The symptoms of kennel cough are similar to a human cold, so look out for coughing, runny nose, frequent sneezing, eye discharge, fever, and loss of appetite. Minor cases tend to clear up on their own, but in more severe cases, you may need to take your dog to the vet to get some cough medicine or antibiotics to relieve the symptoms.




If your pets spend quite a bit of time out in the cold, they could be at higher risk of pneumonia. This is a condition that causes inflammation of the lungs. The symptoms of pneumonia are very similar to that of the flu, so you may find pets suffer from sneezing, runny nose, dry or moist cough, watery eyes, fever, and a loss of appetite.


If you spot any of the above symptoms in your cat, you should take them to see the vet. Mild cases of pneumonia in pets can be treated with cough medication, antiviral medicines, and plenty of fluids.  However, more severe cases of pneumonia may require a pet hospital stay and treatment, such as fluid or oxygen therapy.



Frostbite can happen when your pet is out in very cold temperatures for a long time, or spends a lot of time walking on ice and snow. It causes blood vessels to constrict in an effort to maintain body temperature, which can cause tissue damage and reduce blood flow in certain areas of the body, including the paws, ears, and tail. Signs of frostbite can include cold skin that has developed blisters, discolouration or swelling of the affected skin, and even patches of blackened or dead skin.


If you notice any of these signs in your pet, you should immediately take them to the vet. Your pet may be given some pain medication to relieve the frostbite symptoms and antibiotics if there are any bacterial skin infections. In severe cases, amputation of the affected area may be required.


The sniffles

Just like us humans, our cats and dogs can catch a cold during the winter. You may notice symptoms such as a mild cough, runny nose, watery eyes, and frequent sneezing in a pet who has the sniffles. Whilst a cold is not too serious, you should take your pet to the vets if you do notice any symptoms, as some may need antibiotics for their condition to improve.


To make your pet more comfortable and help them to feel better, place a humidifier in their room to alleviate their cough, and feed them some chicken soup broth or plain rice to help with the congestion.


Antifreeze poisoning

Antifreeze is a common household item during the winter, but it’s a substance that’s incredibly harmful to your pets if they lick it or ingest any amount. Even the smallest amount can cause severe damage to your pet’s kidneys, brain, or lungs.


If your pet has ingested antifreeze, the common signs and symptoms may include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhoea, hypothermia, seizures, and unstable movements. If you spot any of these symptoms or have a feeling your pet may have drunk antifreeze, get in touch with your vet immediately.



Dogs and cats can suffer from arthritis just like us humans. Arthritis causes inflammation of the joints and can cause swelling and pain, which is made worse by the chilly weather.


If you notice your pet has trouble moving properly, walks stiffly after a nap, limps, is lethargic and has swollen joints, these could all be signs of an arthritis flare-up. Take your pet to the vet, where they may prescribe joint supplements and pain relievers, or they may suggest light exercise, dietary changes, or physiotherapy.


How to keep your pet healthy during winter


Wrap up warm: Always keep your pets warm and dry. If you’re taking them out for a walk, make sure they’re always wearing a warm coat to prevent them from becoming too cold and risking hypothermia.


Keep them active indoors: Many pets don’t enjoy going out in the cold, which means outdoor walks might be infrequent. Be sure to keep your pet active indoors by keeping them occupied with games and toys.


Adjust their diet: You may have to adjust your furry friends’ diet during the colder months and change the amount you give them, so they don’t put on too much weight.


Keep them sheltered: Keep your pets safe and sheltered indoors. Move their bed to a place in the house that is dry and draught-free, and give them some extra blankets to keep them warm.


Remove common poisons: Substances such as coolants, de-icing salts, and antifreeze can be highly toxic for your pets, so keep them safely hidden away to prevent your pet from ingesting them.

Make sure your pet is protected and covered at all times with our Asda Money pet insurance policies.

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