Walking dogs is a great way to get exercise while appreciating the frozen terrain. However, it's important for dog owners to pay attention to common wintertime hazards.
Extreme cold is a noticeable risk to keep in mind when walking dogs, but there are less obvious dangers to keep in mind as well. Cold-weather chemicals can find their way onto dog's paws, and pet owners must watch for signs of dehydration and frostbite.
Here are five easy ways to keep your pet happy, healthy, and safe on every dog walk this winter.
1. Look for Signs of Exposure
Smaller breeds with less fur are more susceptible to cold weather, but the AAHA recommends that all pet owners look for the following signs of exposure while walking dogs in cold temperatures:
- Appearing anxious
- Slowing down
- Stopping movement
- Looking for places to burrow
If you notice any of these signs, return indoors immediately. As a general rule, it's good practice to remember that if you're cold, your dog is too!
2. Always Use a Leash
According to the APDT, more dogs are lost in the winter than in any other season. Use a leash when walking a dog in the winter as unleashed dogs may run onto semi-frozen lakes or ponds.
3. Keep Your Dog Hydrated
Dogs are just as likely to get dehydrated in the winter as they are in the summer, according to the AKC. Be sure to provide plenty of fresh water before and after walking a dog walk during the winter season. Keep in mind that snow is not a suitable alternative to fresh water.
4. Be Aware of Chemicals
Sidewalks and driveways are frequently topped with chemicals like antifreeze and ice melters throughout the winter. These chemicals can get onto dogs' feet and cause abrasions. Dogs may also lick chemicals off their feet, resulting in stomach problems.
Consider dressing your dog in booties when going on a walk. If your dog will not wear booties, use a warm cloth to wipe their paws immediately after you return from a walk. ASPCA also suggests Musher's Secret as an alternative to booties. The waxy substance can be applied to your dog's paws and will protect toes and paw pads outdoors.
5. Check for Frostbite
A dog's footpads, nose, ear tips, and tail are at the highest risk for frostbite during the winter, according to PetMD. After each walk, check these points on your dog for frostbite. Frostbitten skin will stay pale and cold -- even after being inside. The skin may also swell and turn red. Always consult a veterinarian if you believe your dog has frostbite.
Preparing for these common cold-weather hazards can help you create a safe and pleasant walk for your pup, even as the temperatures drop.