How to keep your dog safe this winter
We all love a wintry afternoon stroll with a nice hot chocolate and, of course, our faithful furry companions. As winter dawns on us, however, it’s important to keep in mind that the drop in temperature can pose its own unique set of threats to our dog’s safety and wellbeing. The chemicals used in the winter to help prevent the build up of slippery frost can be toxic to dogs, and frost can cause injuries to their paws. As we begin to experience shorter and darker days, it can be more of a challenge to keep your dog safe when out and about. Frozen lakes and ponds can also be particularly dangerous for our more adventurous pups.
Did you know?
Dogs can also suffer from frostbite. One of the major signs of frostbite is skin that looks blue or white, which can affect your dog’s delicate ear flaps and tail tips in particular. Keep an eye out for the signs, and remember that in extreme cold, it’s better to keep your dog inside where possible, with the exception of heavy-coated northern breeds who tend to thrive in low temperatures.
The good news is there lots you can do to help keep your dog safe. Check out the following simple tips and tricks for keeping your dog’s winter blues at bay:
7 simple tips
1. Look after your pup's paws
As well as investing in a winter coat, it might benefit your dog to wear boots or paw protectors. Many different retailers offer these to help keep your dog’s paws safe from injury. Keep an eye out for any signs your dog might be in discomfort due to their paws being too cold when out on a walk, such as stopping and lifting their paws and whining. Furthermore, make sure to clean your dog’s paws after going out in the snow to prevent ice balls from building up, which form between the pads and toes of the paw and can be really painful. Salt and grit used on pavement can irritate your dog’s paws between their toes, and can also be toxic if licked off. Consider using a paw balm which you can buy or make at home to moisturise your dog’s paws.
2. Consider your dog's age
Very young and old dogs have a difficult time regulating their body temperatures, meaning they have more extreme reactions to changes in weather. Older dogs with arthritis may also find wintertime more painful due to the cold weather. If they show signs of discomfort, take them to the vet as soon as possible. Heated beds can help an arthritic dog manage their pain, especially in the colder months, as well as generally helping to warm your dog up during the winter months.
3. Plan indoor activities
When the weather is too extreme, it might be a good idea to consider some indoor enrichment activities with your dog to keep them occupied and mentally stimulated, helping to prevent your dog from misbehaving due to boredom. It’s important to try and take your dog for walks where possible, but try to be sensible and don’t put yourself or your dog at risk. For example, you could use a kong filled with your dog’s favourite food or possibly a treat like dog-friendly peanut butter, or you could play a game of tug which can help to keep them entertained and exercised.
4. Stay clear of frozen lakes/ponds
Make sure to keep your dog on a lead near frozen water, since it can be extremely dangerous and very difficult to rescue your dog if they fall through the ice. Remember, don’t go after your dog if they run towards the frozen water; it is difficult to think about but dogs are strong swimmers and more likely to pull themselves out of a frozen lake than you are.
5. Beware of antifreeze
As little as a teaspoon of antifreeze can cause kidney failure in dogs. Be aware of the signs of ingestion, which include drooling, vomiting, seizures, excessive thirst, panting, lethargy, and a drunken appearance. Even if your own anti-freeze is safely stored away, it can leave dangerous residue in the streets, so be vigilant about where your dog is sniffing. If you think your dog might have ingested antifreeze, it’s important to take them to a veterinarian straight away.
6. The season of dark walks
Try to wear bright, reflective clothing when walking in the dark, and consider purchasing a flashing collar for your dog to make sure they are visible even in the dark. It might also be a good idea to purchase a torch or head lamp to help keep your hands free to walk your dog, as well as a light-up ball if you’re worried your dog might lose it in the dark. Try to walk in well-lit places and walk against the traffic when walking down country roads, remembering to keep your dog on your right to keep them away from the traffic. Remember, only let your dog off in an enclosed area which is away from the road and in a familiar place. Of course, it’s always a good idea to ensure your dog’s recall ability is up to scratch, giving you extra peace of mind when on a walk. You could also try walking with a friend or in a group if you are still anxious about walking in the dark.
7. Consider your dog's diet
It's only natural that your dog will likely get less exersice at this time of year as the idea of long walks out and about aren't quite as appealing for us. It might be a good idea to slightly adjust your dog’s portion size if they are less active due to extreme weather during the winter months. It’s really important for your dog’s health than they stay at an ideal weight.