As you know, most dogs get ready for the winter in a different way than people do, by growing nice thick coats to help keep them warm in cold weather. Dog owners often reach for heavy coats with hats and gloves, and perhaps even some nice warm snow boots, but how can you prepare your pet?
Dogs also love playing in the snow, but there are a lot of hidden hazards that you should be aware of. Keep yourself and your pet safe in cold and snowy winter weather by being aware of possible problems and taking the right precautions to avoid injuries and illnesses that could affect your dog.
Potential Problems for Dog Owners in Winter
Extreme cold is a noticeable risk to keep in mind when walking your dog, due to three very important problems that could potentially be dangerous, leading to health problems for your pet.
#1 – Salt
Salt is a nontoxic condiment in our daily life, but road salt is used to de-ice roads and sidewalks. There are also several salt based ice melting products available in stores that are often used on sidewalks, steps and driveways. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, there are about ten million tons of salt used on the roadways in the United States each year, and this does not include the amount of salt used by individuals and businesses on their sidewalks, steps, parking lots and entry ways. So much salt is used during the winter that it can become an irritant, or worse, a serious environmental toxin. For your dog, salt can cause your pet to suffer from painful burning and cracked or dried out pads from walking on salt-treated roads and sidewalks.
Without washing or wiping your dog’s paws regularly, your pet can also ingest salt through licking and grooming the feet and coat, which can cause serious irritation and inflammation in the mouth and digestive system, or even possibly electrolyte imbalance if a significant quantity is taken in. So, avoid walking on salt-treated roads and sidewalks and wipe their paws periodically can help your dog enjoy a safe winter.
#2 – Antifreeze
In the Seven Tips to Keep Your Dog Warm And Safe in the Winter, you read about antifreeze and the potential harm that it can do to animals. Because antifreeze is commonly found in households, this is something you should be aware of, paying close attention to your home and grounds. Dogs that consume antifreeze in very small quantity might survive, but will likely develop kidney failure within days of ingestion.
Unfortunately, death due to kidney damage is common among animals that have been poisoned by antifreeze. But this can be easily avoided by following some simple precautions when walking your dog or exploring the outdoors around your home. Also, you should always keep your pets away from areas where there is access to antifreeze such as roads, gutters, garages and driveways.
#3 – Frostbite
Even dogs that are covered in fur from head to paws run the risk of getting frostbite in the wintertime, especially when the ground is covered in ice and snow. Some dog breeds, such as Bernese Mountain Dogs, Huskies and, Malamutes, are made for winter, but there are plenty of other dogs that will suffer from frostbite if left in the cold for too long.
Pay close attention to your dog’s ears, tail, and paws, and always check each of these points for signs of frostbite after every walk. Frostbitten skin will feel hard and cold to the touch. When the dog warms up, the skin will look red, swollen, and scaly, and will become very painful.
Always consult a veterinarian if you believe your dog has frostbite. If the frostbite is not treated and is allowed to worsen without proper treatment, this can result in gangrene and it could become necessary to amputate the affected area or limb.
Tips for Walking Your Dog Outside in the Wintertime
Even though winter can be particular dangerous when compared to other seasons, your dog will need regular exercise and beg to go for a walk, especially if he loves the snow. Your well-exercised dog will be much healthier and live much longer than if he is pent up in the house all winter long.
Are you wondering how to walk your dog in the cold and snowy winter? Here are some great tips for taking your dog outdoors during the winter season.
#1 – Wear Dog Clothes and Dog Shoes
Dress your dog in a sweater and booties to help keep your pet warm during his daily exercise or walk. You can easily dress him in insulated winter dog wear. Hairless and short hair dog breeds really need dog clothing to help them keep warm. If your pet hates to wear shoes or booties, take a towel with you when walking your dog to periodically wipe its feet. Most importantly, do not let your dog lick his paws before you wipe them off.
#2 – Keep Your Dogs on a Leash
According to the APDT, more dogs are lost in the winter than in any other season which is very sad for dog owners who worry about the safety of their beloved pet. Dogs are usually very excited when they are allowed to play in the snow and if unleashed, they may run onto semi-frozen lakes or ponds.
This is very dangerous for dogs as well as owners who risk falling into frozen water to coax their pets to safety. You should always use a leash when walking your dog in the winter.
#3 – Teach Your Dog to Listen to Commands
It is very important for dog owners who care for large and strong dogs to learn obedience. Teaching your dog commands such as sit, walk and slow will make your walking session go much easier. For example, when you’re picking up your dog’s waste, you should command your dog to wait.
If your dog does not listen well to your commands, he may pull or drag you, making it impossible to pick up waste easily. Another important scenario might be asking your dog to slow down in order to protect yourself from slipping on icy pavement or running into a mound of snow.
#5 – Pay Attention to Your Dog’s Walking Times
When the winter weather is bitter cold, you should keep your dog’s walks rather short. For his safety, the walk should not last as long as a summer stroll. Just a couple of times around the block should suffice when it is really cold or snowing outside.
If you have a husky, you should be able to stay out longer than other dog breeds. However, if you have a Chihuahua, Yorkie or other tiny dog, you should convince your pet to take a long winter’s nap rather than venturing outside.
Make a Decision Based on Your Dog Breed
In fact, deciding how to approach the winter weather will all depend upon the dog breed you choose, and the age of the dog, as younger pets require more outdoor activity in the winter. For older dogs with arthritis or other more vulnerable breeds, this season can be the most difficult, as cold, snowy or icy weather can bring arthritis and other issues.
Dogs love to play in the snow, but during severely cold winter weather, saying no is the kindest thing you can do for your pet. You should always be careful with your dog, just as if he was a child heading outdoors to play. After knowing these things, you and your dog can enjoy an outdoor winter adventure even more!
How will you prepare your dog for winter?