5 min read
What Should I Do If My Dog Falls Through Ice?
By Adam Lee-Smith
Published: 12/10/2021, edited: 12/10/2021
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Walking your woofer in the winter is never easy, especially if your county is coated in ice. If you live near a lake, it's tempting to take Fido on a frosty adventure across the frozen water. However, walking your pup over ice is potentially dangerous.
Ice is slippery even for sure-footed fur-babies, and there's always the danger your doggo will fall into icy water. Before taking your barking buddy on a lakeside stroll, take precautions and learn what to do if your dog falls through the ice.
General safety tips for winter dog walking
Whenever you're walking your dog in winter, whether over icy lakes or around the block, there are a few general health and safety concerns to address.
Keep your dog warm
First off, not all canines are well-suited in wintry weather. Short-haired and hairless breeds like Greyhounds, Whippets, and Chihuahuas will be shivering in sub-zero temperatures. If you have a dog that doesn't fare well in the cold, consider getting them a sweater or jacket.
The pads of your dog's paws are also susceptible to the cold. Consider buying them a pair of waterproof booties so they don't get sore pads from walking on rough ice. Just ensure any chosen garments fit your dog correctly and that your dog likes wearing clothes.
Trim your dog's paw hair and nails
It's important to trim your pup's paw hair and nails, even if they're wearing protective footwear. Ice can freeze the fur between your dog's paws, causing a painful condition called snowballing.
Trimming your dog's nails is also essential, as your dog could slip if their nails stop them from getting any traction. If your dog doesn't like wearing footwear, consider purchasing some paw wax. Products like Musher's Secret provide a protective all-nature wax barrier across the bottom of your dog's paws to protect them from extreme temperatures.
Never walk your dog over a frozen lake alone
Walking across a frozen lake or waterway is as dangerous for you as it is for your dog. Regardless of the location or time of the day, walking across a frozen lake alone is risky. Your dog won't be able to pull you out or call for help if you happen to fall through the ice. Walking in groups in the wilderness also helps protect you and your dogs from wildlife like coyotes and bears.
Avoid walking in areas sprayed with chemicals
We use lots of chemicals to melt or prevent ice from forming on the ground, which can be dangerous to dogs. Ice melts and antifreeze contain chemicals that can burn a dog's paws and are toxic if ingested. Pay attention to the pavement, and try to avoid walking in areas where there's likely to be chemicals on the road.
Antifreeze tastes sweet to a dog, and even ingesting a small amount can cause poisoning. Contact a vet immediately if your dog is showing symptoms like vomiting, loss of coordination, and excessive thirst. As soon as you get home, check your dog's paws and give them a clean to remove any chemicals.
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How to prevent your dog from falling in ice
When possible, pet parents should walk their dogs away from frozen lakes and waterways. Unfortunately, walking near water is unavoidable for some pet parents. If you happen to walk your hound near or on a frozen lake, here are some precautions to ensure your dog doesn't fall through the ice.
Keep your dog on a leash
One of the most important steps is to keep your dog on a leash. If your dog is allowed to run free, they could step on thin ice and fall in. Keeping your dog on a short leash ensures they can't roam wherever they want, limiting the chances of them stepping where they shouldn't.
Brush up on your dog's training
Basic obedience commands can help keep both you and Luna safe on the ice. First, you should train your dog not to pull on a leash. If your dog pulls while you're walking on ice, they could pull you off balance, and you could slip.
You should also train your dog to come when called. If your pup happens to get loose when walking over a frozen lake, coming when called will stop them from running over thin ice.
Check the condition of the ice
Before you step foot on a frozen lake, look closely at the color and thickness of the ice. Ice that's blue, clear, or green tends to be safer to walk on than dark or white ice.
Ice needs to be at least 4 inches thick to walk on safely. Four-inch-thick ice can hold around 200 pounds. Five-inch-thick ice can support the weight of a snowmobile. Give your walk a skip if you're unsure the ice is thick enough. Cracks in the ice are also a telltale sign it's not safe for walkers.
Make your dog visible in poor weather
Blizzards can come out of nowhere during winter, so making your pup visible on ice is important. If you lose track of your dog and they fall through the ice, it could be fatal. Consider buying your dog a fluorescent jacket or collar so that you can spot them during a snowstorm.
A step-by-step guide on what to do if your dog falls through ice
So, what do you do if your dog falls through ice? You'll need to keep a cool head to ensure you don't put you or your fur-baby in any added peril.
Call the fire department on 911
Immediately call emergency services and request the fire department. If you're on a large lake away from the shore, pay attention to local landmarks to help firefighters locate you quickly.
Don't jump in after your dog
Understandably, your first instinct will be to jump in after your dog; however, doing so is dangerous. The ice around where your dog fell is unlikely to be strong enough to support your weight if it couldn't support your dog.
The chances are you won't be able to help your dog get out of the lake, and you'll put yourself at risk of getting hypothermia. Wait for the firefighters, who are better equipped and trained for the situation.
Leave it to the firefighters
Dogs, especially those with thick fur coats, tend to fare better in icy water than people. When firefighters arrive, they'll use protective gear and a rope to pull your dog out of the water. Pulling a dog out of the water is usually a two-person operation that requires the appropriate equipment, which is why it's best left to the professionals.
Dry your dog off and look for signs of illness
Once your dog is out of the water, you'll want to dry them off quickly and watch out for signs of hypothermia and frostbite. If you notice a bluish/blackened discoloration of the skin, swelling, or skin that's red when warmed, your dog may have frostbite.
Signs of hypothermia include shaking, shallow breathing, stiffness, and weakness. If your dog has fallen into icy water, take them to the vet immediately just to be safe.
Having no pet insurance can leave your dog on thin ice. Secure pet health insurance today to protect your dog from accidental injury or illness. The sooner you insure your pet, the more protection you'll have from unexpected vet costs.