Five Winter Hazards for Your Dog

Each season seems like it comes with its’ own hazards for our dogs.  Winter is no exception.  Dogs have to worry about several things in the winter, including the cold, ice, de-icing solutions, car antifreeze, and lack of water.  Each of these poses problems for your dog that are not as prevalent at other times of the year.

The cold is the most obvious hazard in the winter.  A dog without shelter can quickly freeze to death, particularly if he is wet and hungry.  Even with shelter, a dog can freeze to death if it is cold enough.  The ideal place for your dog in the winter is inside with you.  If that is not possible, the dog should have a wind and water proof shelter that is long enough for the dog to lay stretched out in, tall enough for the dog to stand in, and has a door off to one side so the dog can lay along a wall out of the draft from the door.  Bigger is not better.  A dog can heat the right size shelter with his body heat and stay fairly comfortable, where a larger shelter would stay cold.  Putting clean hay in the house will give the dog something to burrow in, making him that much more comfortable.  Be sure to clean out the hay regularly and replace it with clean, dry hay as wet, soiled hay is worse than nothing at all.

Snow and ice are not only slippery, increasing the possibility of a slip and injury for your dog, they can cut the dog’s feet to ribbons.  As the dog walks, snow and ice become compacted in the areas between the paw pads.  This forms hard, sometimes jagged pebbles of ice that rub sores and cut the paw.  Check between the pads often when walking in such conditions and upon returning from a walk.

Salt and other de-icing solutions also pose a problem for your dog.  They can cause chemical burns on the paws as the dog walks through them.  They can also make your dog sick when he licks them off his feet.  Be sure to wash and dry the feet of your dog each time you bring him in from his walk to protect them, and him, from these caustic solutions.

Car antifreeze is another serious hazard of the season.  While cars use antifreeze all year long, many people change their antifreeze at the beginning of the winter.  It takes as little as a teaspoon of antifreeze to kill a dog.  Because of the sweet taste, dogs are tempted to lick any antifreeze they find.  Although bittering agents are now added to antifreeze and there are less toxic varieties on the market, it remains a major killer of dogs.  Watch your dog carefully when out where cars have been parked to ensure he does not get into any of this poison.

You may have been surprised to see lack of water on the list of winter hazards.  After all, snow and ice are probably all around your dog.  However, water often freezes in the winter and unless there is a heated water bowl, the dog may have only a few minutes a day right after the bowl is filled in which to drink it.  This leads to dehydration and illness.  Make sure your dog has liquid water in his bowl at all times, not a frozen solid water dish.

Winter can be fun for dogs and people.  It also has its own unique hazards.  Being aware of those will help you keep your dog safe.