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In the United States, cold and flu season (1) starts in December and lasts through March. During this time, doctors and pharmacists encourage people to help prevent the spread of these viruses with various precautions– and for good reason. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) (2), 250,000 to 500,000 deaths worldwide are due to flu-relation complications.
To ward off this harmful virus, we keep our hands clean, get a flu shot, and increase our intake of immune boosting vitamins and minerals (3). But are you doing enough to protect every member of your family? As it turns out, your dog–especially if he is older– needs protection for cold and flu season just as much as you do. Fortunately, the steps you need to take as a pet owner are simple and straightforward.
Keep Him Warm
Both cats and dogs have slightly higher resting body temperatures than humans, so when it is colder outside make sure they have a blanket in their bed and an area to sleep in the sunlight during the day. Also be sure to dress your dog in booties and a sweater when taking them outside to potty, because extreme changes in temperature increase risk of illness.
While dogs are happiest spending most of their time indoors, your dog still needs outdoor time (4). Older pets in particular need to keep up with an outdoor exercise routine to help prevent arthritis pain. In the winter, try and work it out so your dog gets outdoor play time during the sunniest hours of the day. It is warmer, so your dog will enjoy himself more and get more energy out of his system. Don’t leave your dog outside on his own– when you are ready to go in, he probably will be as well.
Consider the H3N2 Vaccine
H3N2 (5) is a highly contagious influenza virus that your dog can catch. It causes many of the same symptoms humans get when they catch the flu:
It can take 2 to 3 weeks for a dog to recover from the flu and the odds of your dog catching H3N2 heighten in the winter. If you have a senior dog, the odds go up even more. If your dog has a compromised immune system, your veterinarian can vaccinate your dog against H3N2 (6).
Prevent Dry Skin
Just like humans, your dog is more susceptible to uncomfortable, dry skin in the winter. Alter your grooming routine for the season to help prevent it. The key is: less is more. Your dog doesn’t need as many baths in the colder months. Instead, incorporate a soothing conditioning spray into grooming and brushing time. It will help add oils to his coat while providing a clean, fresh scent. And of course, be sure your dog is getting enough water to keep skin comfortable in the winter months.
Your dog needs special care in the winter to keep him healthy– especially if he is an older pet. Take appropriate measures (7) to keep him warm like providing a dry, warm place to rest and giving him plenty of time in the sunlight. Dog influenza can make your dog ill for weeks, but your veterinarian can provide a vaccination that prevents the H3N2 virus. Finally, prevent dry skin by altering your grooming routine and helping your pet stay hydrated.
Jessica is the creator of OurBestFriends.pet. Jessica lives in Dallas, Texas with her loving family (which includes 2 dachshunds and a black lab). She is a certified dog lover, and believes dogs are just about the greatest creatures on earth. She loves collecting and sharing photos of them.