Paws for thought as winter bites

Thursday , 27 June 2019 by Campbell Gibson

Southern Cross Pet Insurance is reminding owners to pay close attention to the health and wellbeing of their pets, as it anticipates a spate of winter-related claims.

Each winter, claims associated with the colder and wetter weather spike, including bladder problems, joint problems, skin issues and even fireplace injuries.

Southern Cross Pet Insurance has compiled a list of health conditions and risks that owners should watch out for this winter.

  • Bladder problems. Some pets, particularly cats, will avoid going outside to urinate due to bad weather. This can lead to the development of bladder crystals, which can block the urinary tract, a potentially life-threatening situation. Signs and symptoms include frequent urination, urination outside normal areas, painful urination, excessive licking and bloody urine. If your pet displays these signs, take them to your vet immediately.

    Urinary tract problems can be expensive to treat. In 2017 Southern Cross Pet Insurance paid a claim of more than $2,200 for a cat to have its bladder surgically unblocked.

  • Older pets vulnerable to cold. Colder temperatures can aggravate health problems for older pets, such as aching joints or arthritis. Beware of slippery surfaces and ensure your pet has a warm bed or blanket to curl up in. Consider making the bed raised and keep it away from doors and windows that may cause a draft. A special jacket for your dog can also keep them warm while on walks.

  • Winter padding. Pets can easily put on extra kilos in the winter if they don’t get enough exercise. Negative health and wellness issues associated with obesity include diabetes, cardiac and respiratory problems and even higher rates of cancer. Keep them active each day by playing indoor games if you can’t get outside, such as a laser light chase or a tug of war.

  • Dermatitis. Winter walks with your canine companion are a great way to keep you both active but moisture and rain can get into their fur, resulting in dermatitis (skin inflammation). Signs of dermatitis include excessive itching or scratching, flaky skin and hair loss. The best way to prevent dermatitis is to make sure your pooch is completely dry after going for a walk.

  • Pancreatitis. Giving your pet the leftovers of a roast meal may seem like a nice idea, but the high fat content of oil and gravy can cause pancreatitis, a costly and potentially deadly condition. Consult your vet immediately if you suspect your pet has eaten a large amount of oil or gravy, or they show the following symptoms: vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, bloating and dehydration.

  • Heat hazards. Cats and dogs will seek out heat by snuggling up near fireplaces and heaters, but this can be dangerous. Be sure they aren’t exposed to the heat for too long and consider gating off your heater or fire. A good rule of thumb is to have your pet at least one metre from the heat source.

Southern Cross Pet Insurance General Manager Anthony McPhail says, just like humans, pets can fall victim to health issues that are more prevalent in winter.

“There’s no subsidised healthcare or ACC for pets in New Zealand, so these winter health problems and risks can leave owners exposed to large vet bills,” he says.

“This means some owners are faced with the heart-breaking situation of having to decide whether they can afford to keep their furry friend alive. We recommend putting some money aside for those unexpected vet visits or considering pet insurance.”