Friday, January 20, 2017

Pet Safety in Winter; Cold Weather Safety Tips for Dogs

We often don't think much about keeping our pets safe from the Winter cold.  They have a fur coat, don't they?  True, but different dogs have different types of coats.  Some dogs, like my Siberian Husky, Icy, have a thick double undercoat.  Some dogs, like Boxers and Boston Terriers have super short coats.  Then there are dogs like Phoebe who fall somewhere in between.  She's a little fluffy white dog with hair, as opposed to fur, that doesn't get very thick.  No matter what breed of dog you have, what size they are, or what type of fur they have it's important to be mindful of the cold and how cold temperatures can effect your dog.  Keep your dog safe from Old Man Winter with these Pet Safety Tips for Winter.

WINTER SAFETY TIPS FOR DOGS

You 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.

Cold Weather Safety Tips for Dogs


ICE MELTS


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)
These Salt and Chloride substances can be found in the majority of ice melting products.  If your dog is exposed to these it can lead to skin irritation ("burns"), vomiting, diarrhea or worse.

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.

Keep pets safe from the cold temperatures of Winter
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.
Although pet safe ice melt is widely available, not everyone uses it.  Even if it makes your walkway safe for pets, other sidewalks, driveways, parks and public places may not use a pet safe ice melt.  It tends to be a lot more expensive than regular ice melts.  I dampen a dog towel to wipe Icy and Phoebe's paws off when we return from walks.  This prevents them from possibly licking ice melt off their paws, ingesting the chemicals.  Learn more about why ice melting products are hazardous to pets in this article I found on the Pet Poison Hotline's web site.

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-FREEZE

Needless 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!

Keep dogs safe from Winter cold with these Pet Safety Tips for Winter


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.

Winter Safety For Pets
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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49 comments:

  1. Great tips. When we go to our mountain cabin, we have our ski jackets on and boots
    Lily & Edward

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    1. Good for you! It's important to keep the Frenchies warm and safe in the cold.

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  2. Thank you for such a thorough article! The salt is SO bad on the sidewalks here in Brooklyn :( We're still working on Henry's tolerance for boots, so lately it's just been easier to scoop him up. Of course, I end up carrying him a lot of the walk!

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    1. I'm so glad you liked it Rochelle! Yes, salt is awful for pets especially if they lick it. I don't carry them but I always wipe their paws off when we get inside.

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  3. Mr. N wears boots when there's deicer out and I usually wash his paws after coming in during the rainy season anyway.

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    1. I'm glad he's able to wear boots, I'm still working on that with my dogs.

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  4. You are terrific for considering building an outdoor cat shelter! You are my hero! Feral and strays will welcome your shelter with open paws as relief from the terrible cold of winter. I remember seeing some 'How to Build a Cat shelter pages on Alley Cat Allies (but I suspect Pinterest will be an even better bet!)

    For us here in NZ we don't get the bone chilling cold you do, but I know that your reminder about hypothermia and keeping a dog warm are vital information for ALL dog owners worldwide!!

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    1. Oh thanks, I'm so glad you appreciate my mention of the ferals! My sister cares for feral cats at her house, she's so good with them I'm always impressed. It's easy to overlook the freezing cold with dogs & cats, you have to consciously think about their "fur coats" not necessarily being enough when it's really cold.

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  5. Great post - I didn't even think about the toxic dangers of ice-melting products but that makes perfect sense. Stay warm this winter!

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    1. Ice melting is a big concern here, and when it snows it's everywhere! Store owners are required to keep their walkways clear of snow & ice, ice melt is the fastest, easiest way. Not great for pets though.

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  6. Great information in this post! We never really have to worry about such cold temps here in South Florida but sometimes it gets chilly, which we are not used to, and so we need to keep an eye on Oz. He does love the chilly weather.

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    1. You're lucky to be in sunny Florida all year round! I know you had a few chilly evenings this Winter so a sweater is probably helpful for Oz. Icy loves chilly weather too, needless to say!

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  7. Yes, was it two years ago that one of the pet-safe melters was recalled? Fortunately we have had very little ice this year.

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    1. Really?? I didn't even hear about that, how awful! I'm glad you haven't had much ice, we've already had our fill!

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  8. In addition to being harmful to dogs, many of the ice melts are also bad for the environment. I do wish there were more alternatives. Ruby refuses to wear boots - I have tried so many! Like Phoebe, we keep her fur longer in the winter, too.

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    1. Yes, I've heard it's not good for the environment but I don't know all the details of that. I hope to get my dogs to wear boots one day, in the meantime I wipe their paws off with a damp dog towel.

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  9. Thanks for sharing this information for dog owners. Our mom gets so sad when she sees dogs not properly cared for in the cold weather. (We have that same towel!)

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    1. I know, some folks don't realize that freezing cold weather can be quite dangerous to dogs, any dog! Kitties too need to be mindful of freezing weather and stay protected. I worry about the feral cats and how they stay warm in the freezing weather. I love our PetSafe dog towel!

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  10. Good tips. I keep Echo and Gracie in our fenced in 3 acre yard when it is icy and snowy out. We do not have to worry about the ice melts in our yard! Echo has not experienced much freezing weather yet. The one week that it did get that cold, he seemed to do fine.

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    1. I don't worry too much about my Husky in the cold, but I do watch her time outdoors. She'd stay outside all day & all night if it was up to her, LOL! You're so fortunate you have such a large yard - I have total Yard Envy!

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  11. Really nice tips. Even when we don't use toxic chemicals, the city does. Thanks for this informative post.

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    1. Thanks Tonya! I'm glad you liked the tips. So true, you never know what they heck municipalities use on roads, walkways, and lawns! I always clean off their paws when we've been out following snow & ice. Cities usually opt to use whatever is cheapest.

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  12. Watching for ice melt is so important - dogs can really get a bit of an inured if you are not careful! Great post - thanks for sharing with us!

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    1. It can be so bad for them, not just on paws but especially if they lick it off! I'm so glad you liked the post.

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  13. These tips are so important for anyone who lives in an area with cold winters! Here in Metro Detroit, it is very common to see ice melts spread all across the sidewalks and road ways. It makes sense since these areas are dangerous when icy, but I always worry about the animals. People walk their dogs on those sidewalks all of the time! I have to imagine that dogs lick it off of their feet from time to time. Poor pups.
    -Purrs from your friends at www.PlayfulKitty.net

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    1. Yes, it is important to remember that ice melt products can be dangerous for pets. Absolutely, they lick it off & ingest the chemicals - Ugh!

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  14. You linked to some great article - thank you! We have officially thawed but I was so worried about frost bite with Bruiser. He walks pretty slow these days and in the snow he'd sometimes be standing on snow/ice. Boots weren't working so we tried dog socks which helped a bunch. I also tried to get all the ice and snow out of their feet when we got back as they all are lickers all year round and this snow gave them an excuse to really lick! Since we don't use salt here (that's another story) I didn't have to worry about that but so many do!

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    1. I never thought about socks, what a great idea! You had so much beautiful snow out by you, I was really enjoying your photos.

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  15. Thanks for the good reminders. I always go outside with my dogs, so you can bet they aren't subjected to long periods of time outside in extreme weather. Sophie loves the cold, but the two do not! Nelly has longer fur in the winter, but I don't grow her hair out like a fancy Maltese. I don't have time to comb it and the groomer also said that very long hair can draw the moisture up and end up making the dog colder. (I just believed her, I didn't fact check that!)

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    1. Interesting point about the longer hair drawing up moisture, I never thought of that. It's like you just can't win, LOL! Icy loves the cold and the snow too, but Phoebe does NOT!

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  16. I'm visiting the snow this weekend. Thank you for these wonderful tips! I plan on being hyper-vigilant to make sure my dogs stay safe.

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    1. I hope you had a great time in the snow over the weekend! I hope these tips offered some good reminders in time for your trip. We've got to keep the pooches warm!

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  17. There are so many things to be aware of during the winter months when it comes to our pets! Of course, the one that disturbs me the most is when dogs are kept outside too long — or even all day! I just wish people would have compassion and realize that if you are cold, so are they!

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  18. Excellent tips Cathy, and not cutting dogs too short is really important! We leave Jack fluffy in the winter, especially because he's not fond of coats although I am more stubborn then him and make him wear one if it's really cold. I keep Red in a sweater indoors for a good part of the year, and a coat on top of that when outside in the cold weather. I always have a blanket on her bed in case she wants to wrap herself up, and a heater on as well. I had no idea pet friendly ice melting products existed (maybe because it doesn't snow where I live), but I know when we visited Canada one winter, taking her out was a nightmare, especially because the streets and sidewalks were covered in salt. If you think she would agree to wear booties think again. That was a battle and a half, but she did agree to the paw wax which was a lifesaver.

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  19. This is great info. I always worry when I see small dogs with no coat. Or boots on all dogs!

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  20. We love your pink coats! We had a little episode with Maggie after our first snowfall this year. She was out in our driveway with us while we shoveled and later that night couldn't stop licking her paws. We always use the pet-safe pellets but I guess everything isn't 100% safe which is kind of sad when it comes to our pets. I don't know about you but I am so ready for Spring! lol

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  21. Great info although living in San Francisco I do not have to worry about snow but rain yes as Madam hates getting wet :)

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  22. boots are a must. We may use pet friendly salt (de-icer) but the city certainly does not. *sigh* and yes boots. We have a snow suit for our wee little fella. We also have a faux fur sling bag and hand warmers should that be needed.

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  23. We made it through the worst of the winter safely. Up here we only need to worry about what nature throws at us, such as extreme cold, ice and so on. But we're tough cookies up here.

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  24. Great points! We shared some similar information (especially about ice melts) in a post awhile back. We've taken to using wipes to really make sure their paws are kept clean. I've also been using paw wax if we are outside for a bit longer to keep them protected.

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  25. Crikey! I had no idea they put special stuuff on the pavements, here's me thinking its just grit and salt :-( Wow. Thanks for this.

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  26. There are some really scary dangers out there for our pets and children. I find it really scary that some of these things are so prevalent. Great tips and ideas.

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  27. Excellent tips. I did not think about the dangers of the salt and ice-melt products until recently. I knew they could cut feet but it did not occur to me that dogs could lick their paws and get poisoned. Kilo hates boots or anyone touching his feet so applying wax and even washing them is a challenge but I do walk him over wipes after walks and have not had an issue so far.

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  28. Winter can be so tough on pets! Indoor kitties don't face nearly as many of the dangers as dogs and outdoor cats do. Those ice melts can be sneaky! You can track them indoors on your shoes and they can cause problems if your dog or cat decides to make a teat of them. My cats love to cuddle with my shoes!
    -Purrs from your friends at www.PlayfulKitty.net

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  29. This is the first year in a long time we got snow and I was so worried about the ice melted everywhere. I started using a natural paw wax to keep it off their pads and then washing down their paws as soon as we got home. It definitely made me feel better!

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    1. That's so great! I'm sure that helped so much. I get so nervous with all that ice melt everywhere, you can't get away from it. Thanks for sharing how you deal with ice melt, very helpful.

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  30. Being from Florida, we don't get really really cold. But even down here I have to constantly remind people that dogs can get cold too, even with fur. It's like saying humans don't need coats just because we wear a layer of clothing!

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  31. This is great information. I wish my neighbor would read it! He keeps his little pomeranian outside 24/7, no matter the weather. And this winter he even shaved the poor dog! Granted, it doesn't get super cold in Georgia, but we did have a few weeks when it was freezing. I always feel so bad for Puppy (yes, the dog's name is Puppy). :(

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  32. I never thought about all the dangers associated with winter for our pets.

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