The winter chill has finally set in and it’s not just people who are bracing themselves against the cold. Dogs can suffer too when the temperatures dip, so it’s important to take a few measures to protect their health, safety and comfort whilst out on your winter walks.
Tips to keep your dog warm and safe
- When the mercury dips and the trails are full of ice and snow, protecting your pooch’s paws with a paw balm or Vaseline can help protect their pads from drying out and cracking.
- Keep the hair around paw pads well-trimmed. This will help prevent ice and snow sticking between the pads.
- After walks outside, check paw pads for cracks, cuts, and any foreign debris and be sure to clean off the salt and snow removal chemicals. These chemicals can be toxic if licked and the salt will become an irritant.
- Your dog’s coats should be kept longer in winter as natural protection against the cold. However, a short-haired dog might need a jacket or sweater to keep its back and belly nice and warm.
- Keep the walk brisk and short. A dog’s body can lose heat quite quickly. A shorter walk at an added pace will give your dog the exercise that it needs plus help in circulating warmth for both of you.
- If you dog is anything like mine and may not listen to you when called, keep your dog on a leash during the winter months, especially near frozen lakes and ponds. A dog can get excited and rush out onto an ice lake and fall in.
- Check the ear tips and tail tips in particular – if they look and feel cold, appear white, red or grey, and/or are dry and hard, then frostbite may have occurred and you should take your dog to a vet immediately.
- If you see signs of a chilly dog, such as shaking, trembling and whimpering, your dog is too cold to enjoy his walk, take him to a warm place immediately and cover with a blanket and rub to get circulation and warmth into your dog’s body. If you suspect your dog is developing hypothermia, take him to a vet immediately.
- Don’t eat the snow! Avoid letting your dog eat snow or anything else on the ground. Dangerous objects or chemicals may be hidden. Also, eating snow can cause stomach upsets and even hypothermia.
- Keep a towel and warm blanket in the car for after your walk. You’ll want to rub your dog down and make him as dry as possible. A blanket will give him the added warmth to cuddle with on the trip back home and protect your car from debris.
Really, keeping your dog safe during winter walks comes down to two things: be smart, and think ahead so you can ward off dangers and enjoy the winter wonderland. Preparing yourself and your dog for the elements will ensure that both of you can enjoy a beautiful winter walk this season.
Trina Cooper is the proud owner of a beagle (pictured above) who just loves walks in the snow. She is also the founder of Wag The Dog UK supplying great tips on travel, food, and care for dogs.