9 Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe this Winter
When the weather is cold and snowy, it's important to keep our pet’s health and safety in mind. In this article, we provide tips and advice to help you enjoy this beautiful season with your dog.
This article was written by a FirstVet vet
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1. Use reflective collars and leashes
As daylight hours shorten, you may be taking walks with your furry best friend after the sun has set. Make sure that you both are visible to oncoming traffic by using proper reflective clothing, blankets, collars, and leashes. You might also consider using a flashing, LED collar for your dog - this can also help you see your dog if he’s allowed to exercise off-leash.
2. Bundle up!
Stay warm during your outings together. A dog with a short or thin haircoat may need a lined blanket or sweater when the temperatures drop. Using a waterproof coat is helpful to keep your dog warm and dry if you adventure out in a snow or rainstorm.
3. Watch out for antifreeze
As the days become colder, it's common for people to prepare their vehicles for winter by replacing the car’s antifreeze. This substance should always be handled carefully, especially if you have pets at home.
Antifreeze, or ethylene glycol, tastes sweet and is a tempting but very toxic substance for animals. Ingestion of small amounts of antifreeze can quickly lead to kidney failure and death.
Store antifreeze away from pets in tightly sealed containers. Be sure to thoroughly clean up after any spills. Never allow your dog to eat or lick at unknown substances or puddles when out for a walk.
4. Don’t leave your dog alone in a cold car
Remember that temperatures inside your car can drop quickly once the engine is turned off. Your dog may become very cold if left alone for any length of time. This is especially important to consider for puppies, old dogs, and those that have short or thin haircoats.
5. Avoid ice melt and road salt
De-icers are commonly used to keep sidewalks, driveways, and roads clear of ice and snow. Many of these products contain salts and other chemicals that can irritate or burn your dog’s paws. These salts can be toxic if ingested, so be sure that your dog isn’t allowed to lick at her paws after your walk! To be safe, wipe or rinse your dog’s paws when you get back inside. Look for alternative, pet-friendly, de-icers if you use these products at home.
6. Remove snow clumps from your dog’s fur
Long and medium-haired dogs can be prone to collecting clumps of snow between their toes and along the fur on their legs. If left untreated, these small snowballs can cause skin irritation and wounds. They can be easily removed by rinsing the area with lukewarm water. Don’t forget to dry your dog thoroughly afterward.
7. Stiff muscles and joints
Just like us, dogs can become stiff and sore during the cold winter months. If you have a senior dog that suffers from arthritis, his symptoms may be worse when the temperatures decrease. You may need to limit or shorten walks if your dog is sensitive to the cold weather. Be sure to speak with your vet about options to manage your senior dog’s arthritis in the winter.
8. Continue the winter fun - indoors and outdoors!
There are a lot of fun activities to enjoy with your dog during the winter. Many dogs love to play in the snow or embark on a wonderful winter walk. Unfortunately, many dogs don’t get enough exercise during the colder months because people tend to stay inside when the weather is poor.
Try to make it a point to ensure that your dog gets at least some outside exercise daily. If it’s really cold outside, you may need to create some ways to entertain your dog in the house. Check out our article for some great ideas!
9. Consider adjusting your dog’s diet
If your dog is less active during the winter, it’s usually a good idea to reduce the amount of food and treats that you offer. To read more about managing your dog’s weight, check out our article!
Alternatively, if your dog stays outside during the winter months, you may need to increase the amount of food that you offer. Providing enough calories and fat in your dog’s diet is a helpful way to maintain a healthy body weight and haircoat.
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