There’s no doubt your dog enjoys walks! Whether with a pawrent or a puptastic dog walker, pups love the exercise and mental stimulation. Daily dog walks are good for both of you, but when the weather takes a turn to the extreme, you may wonder if they are also safe.
While hot temperatures can cause many dogs to overheat, snowy walks can carry the risk of frostbite or worse! But with a few easy precautions, you and your dog can safely brave the cold in freezing and sub-freezing temperatures this winter.
On a hot summer day when temperatures soar, your dog could overheat, resulting in hyperthermia. Excessively panting or drooling, and becoming lethargic are signs your dog is experiencing heatstroke that can become deadly. Get your dog out of the heat into a cooler space, provide plenty of water, and seek veterinary attention if the condition persists or worsens.
If your home experiences cold weather in winter, you’ll have to contend with exposure to freezing or sub-zero temperatures that can cause hypothermia, a dangerous drop in body temperature. While any dog can experience the shaking, trembling, and listlessness that can indicate hypothermia, puppies, elderly dogs, small and toy breeds, and short-coated dogs are even more at risk. If you see any signs of this condition in your dog, warm them up inside and keep an eye on that temperature!
Blood vessels can also constrict when exposed to freezing temperatures for too long, causing a reduced blood flow to some areas. Painful swelling, ulcers, and blackened, dead skin caused by frostbite often affect a dog’s nose, ears, nipples, and tail, but can be avoided by taking precautions to keep your dog warm on your winter walks.
#1 Stay Vigilant - It can only take minutes for cold weather to turn dangerous, so be on the lookout for disasters that could affect your area, which could call for an evacuation. If a storm is arising, shorter walks could make all the difference between a fun adventure, or a trip to the emergency room for runaway hypothermia! Check here: How to Prepare for a Pet Emergency.
#2 Avoid Ice – Slippery ice can cause a fall which could injure you or your dog, and can also be too cold for tender paws. Ice could also hide freezing water underneath. Always avoid traversing frozen lakes or ponds as a break in the ice could be deadly!
#3 Protect Paws –Booties are a great way to protect your pup’s paws from the cold ground, salts and sharp ice, but if your pup refuses this furbulous winter accessory, try rubbing cooking oil, petroleum jelly or paw wax on their feet. Keep a towel on hand to wipe off your dog’s paws afterward to prevent frostbite, and check for any chafing or cracks.
#4 Keep Warm –With only a few breeds with thick fur coats that can keep themselves warm, such as Siberian Huskies, other dogs that are smaller or thinner-coated are more susceptible to hypothermia. Keep your dog toasty with their own coat or sweater, and have a blanket on hand to wrap your pup in if extra warmth is needed.
#5 Stay Dry – Wet fur can increase your dog’s risk of hypothermia, so keep them from stepping into deep, muddy puddles and slushy areas. If walking in snowfall, wipe your dog off occasionally with a towel, and always thoroughly after the walk, paying special attention to your dog’s paws.
#6 Avoid Chemical Irritants –Avoid walking your dog in salted areas, as the salt can dry and crack their tender paws. Be sure to use pet-safe de-icers at home, and avoid spilled antifreeze and de-icers along the walk. Always be sure your dog’s feet are thoroughly wiped clean of these irritants, as a simple lick or two could be toxic for your dog.
#7 Watch Your Dog's Behavior – Be aware of how your dog behaves in extreme temperatures, as hypothermia and frostbite can set in quickly. If they are shivering too much, whining or favoring a paw, you may need to get them out of the cold immediately. If small, wrap them up in a blanket and carry them, or keep wiping their feet until you get home.
#8 Be Visible – Whether walking during a snowfall, or in the dark due to reduced daylight hours, use lights attached to their collar, or reflective gear, such as a vest, collar or leash to be visible to others. Stay out of the street if you can, and keep your dog close to you.
#9 Stay Leashed – Temperatures drop with the sun, and scents are harder to detect in the snow, which can make getting lost in the freezing winter deadly. Keep your dog securely leashed at all times, and be sure they have a current ID tag on their collars, or a microchip to speed their way home.
#10 Be Ready – Being prepared for the cold can make the difference between a fun outing and a trip to the emergency veterinarian. A great way to have everything you need is to create a winter safety kit.
What to Have in Your Winter Safety Kit
- Waterproof backpack or bag
- Sweater or coat
- Cooking oil, paw wax or petroleum jelly
- Attachable lights
- Reflective clothing, collar or leash
- Extra leash
- Emergency veterinarian numbers