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How to deal with your pet’s winter woes!

The signs that winter has arrived are evident all around us. The Cape is wet, snow is expected on the mountains, load shedding is in full force, and we’re driving to work in the dark.

Winter can be particularly tough on pets, despite their warm fur. Here are some tips to keep your fur-family happy and healthy this winter.

Provide adequate shelter

Pets are remarkably resilient to cold temperatures. Their fur and the ability to curl into a tight ball enables them to withstand some pretty chilly temperatures, but extreme prolonged cold and wet weather (if you live in the Cape) can have a negative effect on their health.

It weakens their immunity, and some may even die from the cold. Shelter is imperative. Whether it’s a kennel, a sheltered area around the house or your bed, shelter that guards against the elements is essential.

Be careful of heaters

For pets lucky enough to have a heater or fire to snuggle up to, it’s important to remember that they can easily burn.

Because their fur protects them from the extreme sensation of heat, they may not realise in time that they have snuggled a bit too close to the flames and can end up with burn wounds. Make sure your pets cannot get too close to the heat source and be particularly careful of microwaveable “wheaty bags”, hot water bottles, and electric blankets. If your pet is accidently burned, get them to the vet as soon as possible.


Winter is when vets often see upper respiratory tract infections in dogs. This is commonly known as kennel cough but is more accurately called Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex.

It is caused by a variety of viruses and bacteria that affect the upper respiratory tract. This includes the nasal passages, throat, and windpipe (trachea).

Most dogs start off with a harsh cough that sounds like there is something stuck in their throat, but they continue to eat well, are active, and don’t act sick. Some dogs shake the illness within a few days, but if the cough continues for more than 5 – 7 days, veterinary treatment is recommended.

There are vaccines available to prevent kennel cough, which is advised if your pet goes to day care, kennels, or often interacts with other dogs.

Protect against ticks and fleas

Tick and flea problems are often thought of as summer conditions but, in temperate parts of the country, this is not the case.

Tick-associated diseases such as biliary and tick bite fever (ehrlichiosis) are often diagnosed in winter, sometimes even more so as owners often stop tick and flea prevention. So, in frost-free areas it is so important to continue tick and flea prevention year-round. Biliary can be devastating, expensive to treat, and your pet may die.

It’s simply not worth the risk of stopping tick and flea treatments in winter.

Watch for arthritis

In winter, many dogs and cats start to show signs of arthritis because cold conditions exacerbate the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.

In dogs, look out for stiffness when waking up, standing up, or walking. Cats, on the other hand, are masters at hiding their pain. If your cat is hesitating before jumping, not able to jump onto his favourite bed or bench, or stretches more than usual, those are signs of arthritis.

Arthritis has become a manageable condition, so have your pet checked by a vet to determine where the pain is coming from so, he or she can design a treatment protocol specifically for your pet.

Although winter is the ideal time for cuddles, some of our pets need special attention during this time, and it’s up to you as a responsible pet parent to keep an eye on their needs.


Mzukona Mantshontsho is the founder of Nyakaza Media Solutions. Nyakaza Media Solutions is an organisation that was established to help community organisations, business entities, and schools to research, write, document, report, analyse, edit, publish newsletters or bulletins in hard-copy, on-line and maintain websites with the relevant content as per the editorial policy of that organisation, school or entity. Nyakaza Media Solutions has a vision to promote and bring dialogue to communities, businesses and schools about issues that affect them. Nyakaza Media Solutions is on a mission to develop and encourage communities, businesses and learners to celebrate the good, applaud excellence, welcome growth, strive to be better individuals, businesses and communities, want more knowledge, discourage bad and counter-productive behaviour as well as communities, businesses and learners that want to be great SOUTH AFRICANS. Nyakaza Media Solutions is making use of Yo School Magazine as a platform that learners in all schools to make use of to write their stories.

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