Hey folks! For some, this season is dreadful, however, for others, it’s a thrilling time. There are many winter enthusiasts out there who enjoy nothing more than outings/excursions with their pets, despite what Mother Nature has in mind. It is essential to keep your pet active during the winter months to avoid unnecessary and unhealthy weight gain and to keep the body in good shape. That being said outdoor winter activities do carry risks.
Dogs are just as susceptible to accidents as we are. They may have two more feet than we do but that doesn’t always make them more sure-footed. Slips and falls are common with dogs. Ligament tears/pulls (especially in the knees, wrists) and fractures are a common issue. It’s best to avoid heavy activity (running, etc.) on slippery surfaces. Even walking on slippery sidewalks can be risky so be very careful!
Many dogs suffer skin issues on their feet due to the salt on the roads/sidewalks. It’s advised to rinse their feet in plain, warm water after walks/romps outside to help avoid salt irritation. It’ll also get rid of those little snowballs and ice that get trapped in the longer stretches of hair. On that note, trimming the hair around the pads of the feet helps a lot during the winter. Indoor heat can wreak havoc on the skin and coat. Adding an oil supplement (talk to your vet) to their diet can make a fantastic difference.
Dogs can, and do, get frostbite so if you spend a lot of time outdoors, you might want to consider dressing him/her accordingly. Doggy fashion has become a booming industry. There are many styles of boots, coats, etc. made especially for dogs for all seasons including the cold winter months.
Your pet may be wearing a fur coat, but unless he/she’s been acclimated to outdoor living, it will not be enough to sustain warmth. Keep outdoor romps within reason. A great rule of thumb is if it’s too cold for you, it’s also cold for your dog.
If your dog resides outdoors year-round remember to keep a close eye on the water dish so that it doesn’t freeze over. There are many styles of heated water bowls on the market for this very reason. Also be sure there’s adequate warm and dry bedding in a well-insulated dog house.
Dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors in the winter require a diet higher in protein/fat to stay warm so whether he/she is living outdoors or just spending a lot of time outdoors with the family your pooch will require more calories. On that note, if your dog is a couch potato during the winter months you may need to consider reducing his/her caloric intake to avoid that dreadful winter weight gain.
One very serious hidden danger is Antifreeze poisoning. It happens every year. Dogs and cats are often drawn to the sweet tasting liquid (although the mystery still exists as to why it draws cats in since they cannot actually taste sweetness. Dogs, however, can) from puddles left in driveways. All it takes is about five tablespoons to kill a medium sized dog, and just one teaspoon to kill a cat. For the safety of your pet, please learn the classic signs of Antifreeze toxicity. It kills fast, so timing is everything!
Cats are notorious for searching out warm places to hide – Under the hoods of hot cars & in the wheel wells are familiar locations. It doesn’t hurt to give your hood a quick slap before you get in your car to scare off any squatters.
And finally, space heaters, fireplaces, etc. Your pets are at risk of getting too close and being burned or tipping them over and potentially causing a fire.
Stay safe and have a happy winter!
Written by Mountain Road Animal Hospital