Dropping temperatures, slushy roads, and icy yards can create less than ideal conditions for getting outside and playing with your pooch. Despite the weather, your dog will need to go out at some point, whether it’s a quick trip to eliminate, or a romp in the snow if she loves a fresh snowfall. Before stepping a paw outdoors this winter, ensure your dog is outfitted appropriately for chilly temperatures.
#1: Use pet-friendly winter chemicals
Slipping and falling on the ice is no fun the older you get, so we tend to salt our sidewalks and driveways heavily to prevent accidents. But, most ice-melting products can be hazardous for pets, who walk through the salt and and then lick it off their paws, ingesting the toxic chemicals. When choosing salt for your home, search for pet-friendly products, or sprinkle sand instead.
Another common winter hazard for dogs—cats are often too smart—is antifreeze containing ethylene glycol, which can quickly harm your pet’s brain, liver, and kidneys. Keep antifreeze well out of your pup’s reach, or keep the garage door shut. Or, choose propylene glycol antifreeze, a pet-safe alternative to ethylene glycol approved by the FDA.
#2: Watch for slippery areas when walking your dog
When heading outdoors with your pup, watch for slick spots on your daily walk, and avoid jogging or running if your sidewalks are not in the best shape. A slip in footing can lead to a sprain or strain, or may tear your dog’s cranial cruciate ligament, which is a common injury in human athletes. Sharp, broken ice fragments can also harm your pet, slicing into paw pads. If your pooch can’t get traction on your sidewalk, or a large amount of ice is present, stick to grassy areas, or purchase doggy booties that will provide a good grip and protect her paws.
#3: Invest in protective outerwear for your pet
Although some dog breeds have thick, fluffy coats, not all are so fortunate. Short-haired dogs benefit from a waterproof jacket or vest when venturing out into biting winds or melting snow and ice, as do puppies, geriatric pets, or pets with chronic conditions, since these pets cannot regulate their body temperature well. If you and your pup spend a lot of time outdoors hiking and exploring, train her to also wear protective booties. Your pooch may take some time to become accustomed to the booties, but they can protect her paws from cuts, chemicals, and the annoying buildup of snowballs between the toes.
#4: Know the signs of hypothermia in your pet
While your pet may be an arctic breed with a thick fur coat who enjoys the snow, keep an eye out for hypothermia signs, as dogs are notorious for overextending themselves. Despite being bred for cold conditions, dogs often are not used to being outdoors for long periods of time when the temperature drops, so watch for these hypothermia signs:
- Pale skin
- Dilated pupils
- Decreased heart rate
- Difficulty walking
At the first shiver or whine, head indoors with your dog, and dry off melting snow and ice to help raise her body temperature.
#5: Light up the night when walking your pet
As winter sets in, the days become shorter and night falls much more quickly. You will likely need to walk your dog at night, so ensure your pup has a lighted collar and leash so you can easily find her in the dark. When walking on sidewalks or along roads, you also should wear reflective clothing to be more visible to drivers.
#6: Monitor your pet’s comfort, indoors and out
Although you know to watch your pet for shivering when outdoors, what about watching for her comfort level when the furnace is cranked up indoors? Hot, dry air can dry out your pet’s skin, leading to uncomfortable flaking and itching. Adding a humidifier to the room where your pet spends most of her time will help combat dry winter skin. And, while you think your furry pal may have the best seat in the house in front of the heater, she may be uncomfortably warm. Offer a variety of resting areas so she can choose the temperature she prefers, ensuring each bed is protected from drafts and away from doors.
Is your pet struggling to remain comfortable in Williamsburg’s dropping winter temperatures? Call us to schedule an appointment—we can help.