Winter has finally kicked into gear. While weather in November and December was more spring than winter, snow and freezing temperatures are finally in full swing. Whether you love the snow and cold, or want to do nothing but curl up under a pile of blankets, you dog still needs to go out into the frozen expanses!
They might have warm fur, but that doesn't mean your dog wants to go out any more than you do, so it's important to make your walks as safe and comfortable for them as possible. Here are a few simple tips and tricks to keep in mind before you grab that leash.
1. how cold is too cold?
There is cold, and there is COLD. While you and your pup can bundle up for a quick walk even in freezing temps, make sure you know what the temperature is! Weather services often issue warnings when the weather is cold enough to cause near-immediate damage. If it's a danger to you, it's a danger to them! Make sure that taking the dog out is quick, and watch for any indication of pain or discomfort. If you're cold, your dog is too!
2. Warning: Frostbite!
Everyone knows about frostbite, even if you've never had it. Your dog is just as susceptible to it as you are, and it is the biggest danger to your dog in the winter! Make sure that you check your dog for signs of frostbit after a walk. Footpads, ear tips, tail, and the nose are the highest risk areas. If the skin is pale and cold after being inside for a while, or if it swells up and turns red, contact your vet immediately.
3. Time to dress up!
So, what can you do to protect your pets during your arctic excursions? The first thing is clothing! You get extra layers during winter, and so should they.
With frostbite being the primary concern for your dog, giving them foot protection can help prevent the stress on their paws. Many smaller dogs also need extra layers due to their shorter coat and size. Make sure to protect them from getting too wet and cold!
Do you need a time limit?
There is no hard and fast limit for walks; you know your dog and their stamina. However, there are a few warning signs you need to pay close attention to while out and about. If you see any of these, get back inside immediately!
- Slowing down
- Appearing anxious
- Stopping movement
- Looking for places to burrow
These are obviously only some of the signs. Just keep an eye out, and keep them bundled up!
4. That darn daylight savings. . .
Even if you live somewhere that is warm all year long, days are shorter, and that means your walk after work is probably going to be done at least partially in the dark. There are nearly 80,000 accidents every year, many of which happen in the dark. Having something reflective on you AND your dog is a great way to prevent any accidents.
There are numerous products you can get with reflective bands, from coats and leashes to a simple roll of reflective tape. With low visibility, careless drivers, snow plows, and sledding children, making sure you and your dog are as visible as possible.
Also, carrying a flashlight is a great way to make sure you are both visible to others, and can make sure you know where you're going. There are even flashlights specifically for your dog! In fact, it is the best thing you can do to make sure you can. . .
5. Watch your step!
It's far too easy to walk on thin ice. Walking on or near lakes, rivers, streams, or even deep sewer drains, make sure you know where you are stepping! Just because it seems solid doesn't mean it is. The above story is a perfect example of how dangerous it is to let anyone in your family play around on ice.
6. What's on the ground?!
You keep your dog away from chocolate, raisins, and your bathroom cleaners right? Well you need to take the same precautions when walking your dog in winter. This is the time of year when there are chemicals abound on the streets, and you need to be careful.
Obviously antifreeze is the biggest culprit. It is sweet tasting, and tends to attract animals, domestic and wild. Everyone is scrambling to make sure they are topped off, and that means unintentional spills. Not everyone is careful about cleaning up spills, leaving driveways, sidewalks, and parking lots awash in the destructive liquid. There are new “pet-safe” versions on the shelves now, but even those can be toxic.
Salt is also a concern, and one that is almost impossible to avoid. Even if you don't use it yourself, your neighbors probably do. Cities also salt streets regularly (and side walks in public areas), meaning your dog will come in contact with it. While not as deadly as antifreeze, salt can be a terrible risk as well (an ounce for every 2 pounds is about the lethal amount). Even small amounts can lead to paw irritation and upset stomachs if it is licked off the paw. Make sure you clean your dogs paws off after ever walk, or provide them with boots to prevent any accidental exposure.
8. It isn't all bad
Winter can be rough, but it can also be amazing! If you prepare, you and your dogs snow days will be an absolute joy. And if you need any proof, here you go! Be safe out there this winter!
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