Winter seems to last a long time in Cleveland. Both humans and dogs get restless indoors. It is healthy for both to get out and enjoy the pretty white cold stuff known as snow. But just as you gear up to protect yourself from the elements, there are some precautions to take to protect your pet. Dogs are just as much at risk as you for hypothermia and frost bite. Even a short duration of exposure to freezing temperatures can result in frost bite, especially on ears and feet, which may result in the need for a surgical amputation!
Another hidden danger is rock salts that are used to melt ice in the winter. These chemicals can be very dangerous and even fatal for your pet to consume either by directly eating your supply, licking their feet after a walk, or slurping up water from a puddle in melted snow. They can also erode your pet’s skin when exposed and trapped by their fur. Even the ones that claim to be “pet safe” have no standards in which to prove this. Finally the risk of sliding and falling in snow and ice are hazards to be aware of.
Here are some tips for protecting your furry friends in the winter:
· Limit cold weather exposure time, especially when the temperatures are below freezing. Shorten your walks and take one or two more so that your pet still gets exercise, but limits risks of cold weather exposure. If you are unsure of a safe duration of time to allow your pet outside, ask your veterinarian.
· Watch closely for and avoid ice. Ice is just as much of a danger to your pet to cause a slide and fall as it is to you. Dogs can injure or tear tendons or break bones sliding and falling on ice.
· Put a weather-proof coat on your pet if the temperature is below freezing when walking or playing outdoors. Sweater material absorbs moisture and can make your pet colder! Keep the sweaters for those pets that get cold indoors.
· Protect your pet’s feet. There are several options for this. First, keep your pet’s paw pads nicely trimmed of fur to avoid slipping. Moisturize them to avoid becoming dry and cracked. If your pet will tolerate wearing boots, use them. (It took about 10 minutes, lots of encouragement and a few yummy treats to encourage mine to walk in them). If your pet refuses boots or bites them off each time you try, protect their paw pads with an ointment purchased from your local pet store. I use Musher’s Secret. Avoid walking in areas that use rock salt. Going to a local park, a dog park or simply walking in your back yard can help to avoid rock salt and other chemicals to melt ice and snow. You should dip your pet’s feet in warm water to ensure they are clear of all chemicals when you return from each walk. Do not allow your pet to lick their feet before they are cleaned.
Enjoy a safe and fun winter season with your furry loved ones!
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