Here at Innovet Pet, our goal is to make the world a safer and better place for our pets. We’ve recently talked about tips for keeping your dog safe during holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving, as both bring an increased risk of injuries and food poisonings. Today, we’re here to talk about how you can keep your dog safe and healthy during winter.
Winter is as beautiful as it is dangerous. Slick ice, frigid temperatures, toxic winter chemicals, and heating sources can all pose a serious risk to our furry companions. Risks that can spell a disaster like a major injury or even death.
Different animal organizations frequently report alarming numbers of our furry companions dying due to issues related to cold weather. Even worse, most deaths aren’t reported, and the number of cold weather-related deaths could be in the hundreds, thousands, no one knows for sure.
But you have nothing to worry about because we have 10 easy to follow tips that will help ensure your loving pup stays safe during the winter.
1. Warm Bedding
If you’re cuddling up to a blanket in the winter, then your dog will likely appreciate having one too. While they have that nice insulating coat, dogs with short and even medium coats can get easily get cold as we do. But even the fluffiest dogs will appreciate a blanket and warm bedding because it keeps them off the cold floor. When looking for a place to put their bed, make sure to consider your dog’s favorite spots and that there aren’t any cold drafts in the area.
2. Watch Heat Sources
One of the big reasons we mentioned our first tip is because dogs love seeking out warm areas in the winter. This can be OK if it’s just your furnace vent they are laying by — though this may stink up your house a bit. However, it’s not OK if your dog is trying to lay next to a space heater, and to a degree, a fireplace.
If using a space heater, make sure to keep it away from any place your dog could easily knock it over. The National Fire Protection Association says space heaters result in 43% of all winter house fires and 85 percent of all winter heating fire deaths.
With a fireplace, make sure you never leave your pet unattended with it burning.
3. Your Dog’s Age
Both young and senior pups are more susceptible to the many risks of cold weather. Ice is a big danger for both as young pups easily become over eager and slip, while older pups might lack the strength to keep them stable enough on it. As well, both young and old dogs more susceptible to colder temperatures and getting sick from consuming toxic chemicals.
4. Avoiding Ice
Above, we mentioned that young and older dogs need to stay away from walking on ice. But you know, teaching your dog to avoid walking on it, in general, is a great idea. Any dog of any age and agility level can easily injure themselves by taking one wrong turn on the ice.
As well, teaching your dog to not walk on ice is a good idea because your dog doesn’t know which ice is thick and safe enough to walk on. Every year you hear stories about dogs drowning after falling into icy water.
5. Avoiding Antifreeze and Other Common Winter Chemicals
If you haven’t yet, now is a good time to top off the antifreeze levels in your car. And when you're done doing that, make sure that the antifreeze bottle is completely out of your dog’s reach. Antifreeze is highly toxic, with one teaspoon being enough to cause kidney failure. Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning include excessive thirst, drooling, panting, vomiting, lethargy, seizures, and a drunken state.
Make sure to wipe your dog’s paws down to remove any ice melt or rock salt. Besides potentially irritating their paws, if consumed, it can cause side effects such as an upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea. It can even kill a dog if they consume too much. A dog only needs to consume 4g (less than 1 oz.) of sodium chloride per 1kg (2.3 lbs.) of body weight to potentially die from it, making just 2 ounces deadly to a 4lb dog.
If you suspect your dog consumed antifreeze or another toxic chemical, immediately consult your veterinarian. As well, it’s always a good idea to have something like Stat! Syringe that allows you to safely induce vomiting at home. If you can induce vomiting within an hour or two of ingestion, you can remove the toxic substance before it causes significant harm.
6. Protecting Your Dog’s Paws
No one wants to see freezer burnt or cracked toe beans, so make sure you’re keeping your dog’s paws safe with a few simple grooming tips.
First, dog breeds known for having a lot of hair like Siberian Huskies often grow long hair between their pads and toes, and it’s a smart idea to keep it trimmed in the winter. The long hair can easily form into ice balls and can make it harder for a dog to get traction on slick surfaces.
Second, monitor your dog’s paws once a week during the colder months and make sure their paws aren’t drying out or cracking. If they seem rough, using a moisturizer is a quick and simple solution. You can use your own moisturizer (just make sure it doesn’t have any toxic ingredients in it), or you can use a moisturizer formulated just for your dog.
Last, but most important is wiping down your dog’s paws when they come in from outside. Above we saw that rock salt and ice melt can stick to their paws and irritate their skin and stomach if ingested. As well, wiping down will remove any ice balls and excessive moisture that dries pads outs. To clean your dog’s feet when they come in, just wipe them down with a towel and some warm water.
7. Limit The Time Your Dog Spends Outside
Those little noses and floppy ears are just perfect for catching frostbite in the winter, so make sure you’re limiting outside time. Especially, when temperatures drop below 20F, which is potentially dangerous to any dog. Symptoms of frostbite include discoloration, swelling, blistering, and pain.
A great idea is to only go outside when the sun is out shining and the wind is mild. As well, consider finding some new games you and your dog can play inside instead that will help get both their mental and physical energy out. You can try hiding treats or their toys around the house or take the opportunity to teach them a few new tricks.
8. Get Your Dog A Coat
If your dog isn’t blessed with a big ol’ fluffy coat, then consider bundling your dog up in their own coat to keep them warm. In fact, for some short-hair breeds like greyhounds, a coat in the winter is a near necessity.
This is a great way to express your dog’s unique personality!
Throwing on an extra layer of fat in the winter is not the way your dog should keep warm during the cold months. With all the holiday foods floating around, it can be hard to not share some of the love with your pup. But that’s extra calories at a time when they are likely burning fewer calories due to decreased activity levels.
So make sure you keep a close eye on your dog’s belly and rib cage, and adjust down their food if needed or get them moving.
10. Don’t Leave Your Dog In Your Car
Just like in the summer, it’s never a great idea to leave your dog alone in a car. Frigid temperatures can be just as deadly as sweltering temperatures. As well, carbon monoxide poisoning is a risk if the car is parked in a garage.
With these 10 essential tips, you’ll greatly help ensure your pup stays healthy and happy during the winter. If you're still looking to help your pet out during the colder months, feel free to contact us at any time with any pet-related question. Because at Innovet Pet, we’re here for you and your pets.