Wintertime can be beautiful… and dangerous at the same time. This is especially true for dogs. Cold weather brings several types of potentially harmful elements. You need to take precautions to observe dog safety and make sure doesn’t get injured or sick when the mercury dips.
Here are the most important dog safety tips in order to keep your pet as safe and happy as possible during the coldest times of the year:
1. Antifreeze/Chemical Spills
During extremely cold weather, many people have to put antifreeze in their cars. This is an incredibly poisonous liquid, and it can be fatal to pets. Unfortunately, both dogs and cats are attracted to antifreeze. If you have to use it, make sure you don’t spill any on your driveway or street. If you have some at home, keep it safely out of reach from your pets. The component in antifreeze that gives it a sweet taste is known as ethylene glycol.1 If possible, buy antifreeze that doesn’t contain this chemical.
Also, frozen driveways and sidewalks mean applying chemicals to melt the ice. Pets can easily pick up these chemicals on their paws. They can become very ill when they lick their paws after a walk.
Consider this aspect of dog safety when heading outside: Whenever your dog goes outside, make sure you wash his paws when you return, to be on the safe side. And consider using pet-safe deicers whenever possible.
2. Cold Wind
Wind chills can be brutal during the winter months. They can be dangerous for you and your pets. Don’t assume your pooch will be safe just because he has fur and can get in a doghouse. Either keep the doghouse covered, or pointed away from the wind (and since wind changes directions, that can be difficult to do). Better yet, keep your dog inside when you know wind chills are going to be dangerously low.
If your dog has a thin coat and not a lot of fat, he will be at a higher risk for hypothermia during cold weather. This same is true for older dogs. Either keep them inside, or make sure they have a warm outside shelter. When you take your companion for a walk, cover him in a dog jacket or sweater.
Frostbite is another very real danger during cold weather. When temperatures are extremely low, a dog’s ears, nose, and paws can become affected. One sign of frostbite is discoloration in the affected area. For example, one area of skin might have a bluish or grayish tint. Other signs include blisters, swelling, and skin ulcers.2 Always wipe away any snow or ice on your pet’s fur or paws. Pay special attention to the area between paw pads.
It takes a lot of energy to stay warm when the temperature is low. This is the case for dogs and humans. If you have outside pets, make sure they have plenty of fresh, clean water, and plenty of food. You’ll also need to keep a close eye on their water bowl. If it freezes, they could easily become dehydrated.
5. Dangers Inside the Home
Dog safety also applies indoors. It’s only natural that you would want to keep your dog indoors when the weather turns bitterly cold. However, there are dangers inside the home that you need to be aware of. For example, if you have active pets and you use space heaters in your home, that can be a deadly combination.
Never buy a space heater that doesn’t automatically shut off when tipped over.
Also, during the winter, holiday sweets are everywhere! Never leave any chocolate in a place where your dog could get to it. Dogs can’t digest chocolate. If they eat too much it could be fatal.3 Make sure all insecticides, cleaners, and other dangerous chemicals are out of reach as well.
6. Grooming and Walking Tips
Don’t cut your dog’s fur short during the winter months. The longer his coat, the warmer he will be. If you have a long-haired dog, a slight trim will be all you need. That way, you can keep ice from clinging to his fur. A slight trim (particularly between the paw pads) will also help reduce the chances that any potentially dangerous chemicals will stick to him when you go for a walk. If you have a short-haired dog you tend to keep outside, get him a sweater to wear during freezing temperatures. Again, though, it will always be better to bring him inside.
Also, keep baths to a minimum when the weather turns frigid.
Giving your dog too many baths can strip his coat of the oils he needs to keep his skin from becoming dry and flaky.4 Make sure you use a moisturizing shampoo if you simply have to clean him off.
When you take your dog for a walk, bring a towel. You’ll need it to clean off his paws so that they don’t become irritated on cold, rough terrain. Wipe a little petroleum jelly on his paw pads before you go outside. This will help keep chemicals on the sidewalk from accumulating on his paws. You can also find booties at your local pet store that will keep his paws from getting irritated.
7. Keeping Your Dog Active During Cold Snaps
It’s important to keep your dog as active as possible. But that can be challenging when winter weather sets in. If you have a lot of space in your home, find a room where you can play fetch or hide and seek. Just make sure you remove all breakable items first. A lot of dogs love chasing the light from a laser pointer. They’ll run after that light for hours if they can. There are even dogs who love chasing bubbles.5 You can find a pet-friendly bubble maker at your local pet store.
If both you and your dog are going stir crazy, see if there is an indoor dog park or agility class nearby.
You can also take him with you the next time you go to the pet store. He’ll love the new sights, sounds, and smells. There are even some big-box hardware stores that allow customers to bring their dogs. Call ahead to make sure you can bring your pooch along for the trip.
The Final Word
The winter months can be brutal, but they don’t have to be dangerous for your pets. Taking a few common-sense precautions can go a long way toward making sure your beloved companion stays safe and happy during cold weather.
For more helpful doggy health tips, keep reading: