Snow & Ice Safety for Dogsby Kimberly DeCosta
Your dog's time outside in winter can be more enjoyable with a little extra care.
When the temperature dips below freezing and snow begins to fall, thoughts of playing in the snow with your beloved dog come to mind. If your dog is accustomed to staying indoors for most of the day, he should only spend limited periods outside in cold weather. With some preparation, you can enjoy all the winter months have to offer with your dog.
Some breeds handle cold weather better than others. A long-haired dog such as a Saint Bernard will need less protection than a dachshund. If your dog has a short or thin coat, consider a water-resistant sweater or coat for him during cold or inclement weather. Booties will protect your dog's feet from irritants such as salt or chemical ice melt that he may come across. Keep in mind that a bigger dog such as a Siberian husky will withstand cold temperatures longer than a dog that has shorter legs and is closer to the ground and snow, such as a Chihuahua.
While training your dog does not come to mind as a winter necessity, it does come in handy when you need to do an extra grooming task or clean your dog. Practice wiping your dog's paws with a warm washcloth daily. The cloth will remove excess dirt, ice, salt or chemical irritants from your dog's foot pads. A leash-trained dog will be easier to handle across slippery or icy terrain. Lastly, a dog who responds to voice commands will respectfully turn away from a harmful winter hazard such as antifreeze or a thinly frozen pond.
Winter weather comes with a wealth of chemical products that can harm your dog. Antifreeze has a sweet taste and toxins that will kill your dog. A sign of possible antifreeze poisoning is drunken behavior. If you suspect he has ingested even a small amount of antifreeze, contact your veterinarian immediately. Another common irritant is ice melt, which can cause chemical burns or irritate the skin. Avoid using chemical products and clean your dog's paws after each outing.
Signs of Distress
Watch your dog for signs of discomfort. He may shiver, whine or slow down if he is extremely cold. Older dogs susceptible to arthritis can slip on ice or frozen steps and stress already compromised joints and tendons, so watch him for abnormally slow or stiff movement. Frostbite occurs on a dog's extremities such as the ears, tail and feet. Your dog may have frostbite if he has discolored, swollen or blistered skin. A dog showing signs of hypothermia will appear lethargic, have shallow breathing or appear weak. If you suspect your dog has hypothermia or frostbite, move him to a warm, dry location and contact your veterinarian immediately.
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