We might be getting our warm coats on and turning our heat up to prepare for winter, but we also need to make sure our dogs are also safe from the cold. Here’s what you need to watch out for
With temperatures getting colder and an arctic blast on its way, its safe to say we’re going to be spending as much time as we can indoors, where it’s warm and dry.
But if you’ve got a dog, then chances are you’ll want to take them out for a walk at least once a day if possible.
Just as we prepare to keep ourselves warm during winter, dog welfare organisation The Kennel Club warns that we need to keep track of certain dangers to make sure we keep our pets safe during the colder months.
Here’s everything we need to be aware of, including dangers and how to keep pets safe.
What dangers should you look out for when taking your dogs for walks in the winter?
Antifreeze smells and tastes sweet so dogs are often attracted to it, but licking even a small amount of it can damage their kidneys and be fatal.
Dogs are most likely to come across antifreeze leaking from a car radiator or some that’s been spilled after refilling screen wash.
So if you notice any liquids near your car, keep your dog away and clean it up immediately. Wash their paws with soap and water in case they’ve walked through anti-freeze.
If you think your dog has been in contact with licked, drank or been in contact with antifreeze, contact your vet immediately.
Cold winds and low temperatures can reduce your dog’s body temperature and cause hypothermia.
Though every dog is different and some maybe more at risk to the cold than others, especially if their small, have short hair or are very young or old. For such dogs, you might want to consider getting a coat for them and protection for their paws.
Make sure the coat fits them well, isn’t too tight or loose and that your dogs can move normally. Even if your dog is wearing a coat, keep an eye on them and if you find them shivering, then get them home as soon as possible.
Ice and snow can often stick to the fur between their pads and ball-up which is not only uncomfortable for your dogs but can increase the risk of frostbite. So if you’re out on a walk with them, keep an eye on their paws.
If your dog lifts their paws, stops walking or whines, this could be a sign that their paws are too cold.
When a dog gets cold, the body limits blood flow to extremities like paws, tail, ears etc, using to keep vital organs warm instead. But this increases the risk of frostbite on the extremities.
On icy days, try to limit the time your dogs spend outside and using a coat to keep them warm.
Road grit and salt
Gritted surfaces can be harmful to dogs as grit can get stuck in between paws causing soreness, redness or cracking. Sometimes the grit can contain salt which causes more irritation, and if licked in large amounts the salt from grit can be harmful to a dog’s health as well.
Make sure to wipe your dog’s paws after walks in gritted areas and considering getting protective booties as well.
Letting your dogs play on frozen ponds and lakes may seem harmless but there are a lot of dangers involved with this. Not only can the sharp ice cut their paws, the slippery surface could cause them to fall and hurt themselves as well.
Most importantly, these surfaces may seem solid but have many holes or areas of thin ice that your dog could fall into. If this does happen, don’t go in after them, because if the ice has broken for your dog then it is likely to break under your weight too.
Instead, use a long stick or leash to give something to hold on to, or encourage them to swim to you by calling their name.
How to keep your dogs safe and healthy during winter
Take short winter walks
While its better for your dogs not too spend too long in the cold, daily walks are important to keep them health. In winter, instead of a single long walk, try frequent short walks.
Set up cozy bedding
Don’t let your dogs sleep on a cold floor during winter. Arrange bedding that ensures your dog stays warm – use blankets to create a snug environment and place the bed in a warm spot in the house away from drafts, cold tiles or floors.
Don’t leave your dog alone in the car
Just like cars get dangerously hot in the summer, it can get just as cold in the winters. So it’s best if you leave your dog at home when you’re running errands.
Feeding your pup healthy meals is important to develop a healthy coat during winter. But keep an eye on their activities and adjust calories accordingly, especially since cold temperature cause lazy behaviour and lowers the use of calories.
Keep warm water handy
It’s tough to avoid grit and salt on walks during the winter so keep a bowl of warm water just inside your door to wipe your dog’s paws as soon as you are back home.
Try indoor exercise
Playing outside may not be appealing in the winter, but your pets still need exercise. Bring the play inside! Try different indoor games and activities like racing up and down the stairs, tug of war or teach them new tricks.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.