Winter and the cold weather can be rough on your dog and knowing how to keep your dogs safe in the snow can make all the difference. Between the drop in temperature, snow, and ice, there’s a variety of discomforts and dangers to dogs. Keep your companion safe and happy this time of year, read below for our top tips and safety advice:
1. Protect The Paws
It’s important to protect your dog’s paws during the cold winter months. Salt and other chemical agents on sidewalks and roads may cause irritation and discomfort on paws and paw pads. Be sure to always check for cracks in paw pads and redness between the toes. Booties are a great option to keep your dog’s paws protected.
If your dog won’t tolerate booties, try applying petroleum jelly or pet paw protection wax to all four paws before heading outside. In addition, you may consider clipping the hair between your dog’s toes to reduce the chance of iceball accumulation.
Our product directory includes options of booties and paw protectants.
2. Watch the Temperature
Be sure to keep potty breaks and walks short and sweet when necessary. Between the dropped temperatures and ice and snow, there is no need for your dog to be outside for extended periods of time. It’s important to know and understand your dog’s limits. Tolerance to the cold can vary from dog to dog based on their coat, activity level, body fat, and overall health.
Temperatures shouldn’t present a problem for dogs until they drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the temperature falls below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, smaller dogs, thin coated dogs, very young or old dogs or sick dogs should be closely supervised. Dogs with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances may have a harder time regulating their body temperature, which makes them higher risk for temperature-related problems. Once temperatures drop under 20 degrees Fahrenheit, all dog owners should be vigilant and aware that their dog could potentially develop health issues related to cold weather including hypothermia and frostbite.
Signs of Hypothermia in Dogs:
- Stiff muscles
- Pale gums
- Dilated pupils
- Low heart rate
- Low breathing rate
Signs of Frostbite in Dogs:
- Discoloration of the affected area (may appear pale, gray or bluish)
- Coldness of the affected area when touched
- Pain when affected area is touched
- Swelling around the affected area
- Skin ulcers
- Blackened or dead skin
If your dog is exhibiting any signs of hypothermia or frostbite, consult a veterinarian immediately.
In addition to the above temperature precautions, dogs should never be left alone in the car during cold weather, as cars can function as a refrigerator and hold in the cold.
3. Dangers of Salt/Ice Melts
In addition to the irritation to paws as discussed above, the salt commonly used on sidewalks and roads can also be toxic to dogs if ingested. When too much of an ice melt/salt is ingested your dog’s sodium levels become elevated leading to tremors and even seizures. Many of these salts also contain calcium chloride which can cause ulcerations in the mouth. More subtle signs of ingestion are vomiting and diarrhea. Even if your dog doesn’t directly ingest the salt, the problem often occurs when dogs lick their paws after walking through a treated area. If you believe your dog has ingested ice melt or salt, contact your vet or the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661. This is why booties are an excellent idea, as they can prevent your dog from having access to ingestion altogether.
While you can’t control what salts are used on all sidewalks and roads, you can use alternatives on your own property. There are a variety of pet-friendly ice melts and salts available on the market now. These ice melts typically contain urea or magnesium chloride instead of sodium chloride. However, just because ice melts are labeled “pet-friendly” does not necessarily mean they are completely safe for your dog. You’ll still want to keep a close eye to be sure ingestion does not occur.
4. Keep Them Dry
The wetness that comes with winter provides another risk to your dog as it may lead to them becoming colder than they already are. Towel dry your dog as soon as they come in from outside to prevent this. Double-check that paws and foot pads are dry as well. If the temperature allows for it, consider bringing a towel with you on your walks. During the walk, make it a habit to check on your dog’s paws, belly and legs and give them a quick towel dry.
If your dog has a shorter coat or is bothered by the cold, you may want to purchase a few sweaters or dog coats. You’ll want to be sure it has fully dried before using it again.
5. Keep Your Home Warm and Humidified
The cold of winter can lead to dry, itchy skin for dogs just as it does for humans. Repeatedly coming out of the cold into the dry heat inside can cause itchy, irritated, flaking skin for your dog. Be sure to keep your home warm and humidified to prevent this. Humidifiers can be found online or in stores.