WINTER SAFETY TIPS FOR DOGSYou may think I don't worry about Icy being in cold weather since she's a Siberian Husky, but I do. Not nearly as much as Phoebe of course, but I'm always mindful of pet safety in the Winter for both of them.
One of things I worry about most with both my dogs is rock salt, or ice melts on sidewalks and in the road. Ice melting products can contain chemicals that are toxic to your pet. Pets can be harmed either by eating it or getting it on their paws or body. If it gets on their paws it can irritate, or "burn" your pet's paws and skin. If they lick it off paws or skin they'll ingest the chemicals.
Ice melting products are harmful to pets because they contain:
- Sodium Chloride (a.k.a. Rock Salt)
- Potassium Chloride
- Magnesium Chrloride
- Calcium Salts (calcium carbonate, calcium magnesium acetate, and calcium chloride)
There are Pet Friendly ice melting products designed not to irritate pet paws or skin, however they are all a bit different and don't appear to be very well regulated. Most pet safe ice melt products are both salt free and chloride free. Several are Urea (a.k.a. carbamide) based. Although safer for pets, urea based ice melting products can still be harmful if large quantities are ingested. If your dog finds the bag in the garage, sticks his nose in it and ends up eating it he is likely to get very sick.
I wish "pet safe" ice melting products were better regulated and had more standardization in terms of ingredients. When you shop for pet safe ice melts read the ingredients list carefully. If you're not sure whether it's safe for pets, call the manufacturer or go online. Either way, keep it well out of reach to avoid your dog getting into it.
|We got this dog towel from Petsafe at a BlogPaws pet bloggers conference. I use it to wipe the dogs' paws each time they go out.|
You can use dog booties or paw wax to help protect your dog's feet from dangerous chemicals on the pavement. This helps prevent ice balls from forming on their feet, and booties can offer some protection against sharp objects under the snow that may not be visible. Be sure to wipe the paw wax off once back inside so it doesn't end up being a dirt collector all around the house!
ANTI-FREEZENeedless to say, anti-freeze is extremely dangerous to pets. Just a few licks can kill a dog or cat. Even if you don't have anti-freeze in the house or garage, a neighbor might. Keep anti-freeze out of site & well out of reach. Don't let your dog run loose in the neighborhood, he might get into someone's garage or shed where anti-freeze is stored. Be mindful of possible anti-freeze spills near roads or driveways as you walk your dog as well. This should go without saying, really, but no Pet Winter Safety Tips article would be complete without mentioning the dangers of anti-freeze.
Ethylene glycol is the main ingredient in most antifreeze products, and it's poisonous. It smells good and tastes sweet, making it appealing to pets but it's deadly. Some manufacturers have added a bitter taste to their anti-freeze products, but you must still be on guard and keep it away from pets.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, it only take a few tablespoons of highly toxic anti-freeze to put an animal's life in peril. They recommend switching to an anti-freeze that contains propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol, but although it's less poisonous it is still toxic. Even if you make that switch, a neighbor or neighboring commercial facility might still be using anti-freeze with ethylene glycol. Paint may also contain ethylene glycol, so if you store paint outside in a shed or garage keep the containers well sealed and out of reach. If you suspect your dog may have ingested anti-freeze or paint call your Veterinarian immediately. Symptoms of anti-freeze poisoning include lethargy, disorientation, loss of coordination and vomiting.
PREVENT HYPOTHERMIA IN DOGS
Some dogs can tolerate the cold better than others. Icy, my Husky can stay outdoors in a blizzard and be happy as a clam. We have to make her come inside! Phoebe, on the other hand hates the cold and often has to be coaxed just to go out in the yard to potty if it's snowing.
Shorter hair dogs such as Boxers, Pugs, and French Bulldogs are more prone to freezing than dogs with thicker, heavier fur. They can't keep the heat in their bodies the way double coated dogs like Huskies, Collies, or German Shepherds can. Hypothermia is a real danger to pets in the cold. Dogs and cats freeze to death every Winter in cold climates. Leaving a dog outside in freezing temperatures for a long period of time can be disastrous. Of course, leaving a dog in a parked car in freezing temperatures can be just as dangerous. It's like leaving your dog in the freezer!
Hypothermia has varying symptoms depending on the severity of it. Strong shivering, rapid heart rate and breathing, muscle stiffness, body temperature below 98 degrees F, and loss of mental alertness are some of the symptoms. If you think your dog is suffering from hypothermia, get him wrapped in warm blankets (dry him off as best you can first if he's wet), give him some warm liquid to drink, or wrap a hot water bottle in something like a towel and place it against the dog's abdomen. Contact a Veterinarian as soon as possible.
KEEP PETS AWAY FROM FREEZING OR ICY WATER
If you're like me you love taking your dog to the beach or to parks that have a lake or pond your dog can romp in. In the dead of Winter however, lakes and ponds can freeze, and the ocean is downright frigid. Be sure to keep your dog on a leash and steer him away from frigid water and any bodies of water that have iced over. It's easy for a dog to fall through thin ice. If that happens it won't take long for hypothermia to set in. When hypothermia sets in, the dog's body temperature eventually gets too low for normal organ functioning. If a dog doesn't get treated for hypothermia in time, it could be fatal. I came across an interesting article on What To Do If Your Dog Falls Through Ice in a post shared by one of my favorite brands, Outward Hound.
A dog doesn't have to fall into icy water to get hypothermia, staying out in extremely cold weather for longer than the dog can handle can also lead to hypothermia. Keep your eye on your dog and watch for behavior that may indicate the cold is getting to be too much for him. When we bring Icy and Phoebe out in the cold for one of our adventures I keep a very close eye on Phoebe and a little less of an eye on Icy. I know how high Icy's tolerance for the cold is and how low Phoebe's is. We are heading to New Hampshire for some fun and adventure with the dogs soon, and I'm acutely aware of how cold the weather will be. I've made sure we're prepared for the cold and will be very mindful of how much time we spend outdoors.. Learn more about Hypothermia in Dogs in this article from PetMd.
KEEP GROOMING TO A MINIMUM
Phoebe gets groomed two or three times a year, but I don't shave her down in the Winter. Shaving her would remove some of her natural protection against the cold. I also make sure to put a sweater and/or a coat on her when we go for walks or play outside in the snow. Needless to say, my Husky doesn't need any apparel to keep her warm!
FROSTBITE IN DOGS
One of the dangers for dogs staying out in the cold for long periods of time is Frostbite. According to Doctors Fosters and Smith Frostbite is: "...the injury or death of tissue from prolonged exposure to freezing or subfreezing temperatures..."
Frostbite is a real concern for dogs in the Winter. Frostbite is most common on the ears, paws & toes, tail, and scrotum. As the body becomes colder and colder, blood vessels constrict, depriving tissue of the blood supply needed to warm them. Eventually the tissue freezes and dies.
Symptoms of frostbite include a gray or bluish discoloration of the effected area. It may feel cold to the touch and may be painful to your pet when touched. It may also feel dry or brittle. Be mindful of how much time your dog is spending out in the cold and watch for signs of frostbite. If you suspect your dog has frostbite, contact your Veterinarian immediately.
|Being a Husky, Icy would stay outside in the snow all day if I let her!|
It's not just my dogs I worry about, I'm also concerned about my neighborhood feral cats and the birds out in the frigid cold of Winter. Water in the bird bath or in puddles will freeze when the mercury really plummets so I leave water in our bird bath with a small heater in it. It's a simple, inexpensive device that plugs into an outdoor outlet. I'm currently trying to convince my husband to help me build a cat shelter on the porch as well. A simple shelter that blocks the wind with a kitty bed or blanket under it will do just fine to keep our furry feral friends safe from frigid Winter temperatures!
Please, don't leave your dog outside all day in freezing temperatures! If you absolutely must leave your dog outdoors, if it's totally unavoidable, at least make sure there is a shelter to block the wind and blankets to help him stay warm. Check his water to ensure it's not frozen and consider investing in a coat as well. I'd suggest booties too, but if they're not actively walking most dogs will just rip them off!
Follow these cold weather safety tips to keep pets safe when those arctic winds blow. Enjoy the beauty and fun of the season!
How do you keep your pets safe in Winter? Share your favorite tip in the comments below, we always love hearing from you!
NOTE: I am not a Veterinarian or a Vet Tech, nor do I play one online! This information is based on my own personal experiences and research.
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