Keeping Your Dogs Safe in Winter
Our Veterinary Surgeon and Homeopath, Sue Armstrong, has listed some things to be cautious of when out with your dogs this Winter.
It is wintertime once again and we have already had some sharp frosts and the first ice on the roads and paths (well we have up north!). Winter walks can be lovely and bracing especially if the sun is shining and the sky is blue but the colder it gets the more care we have to take out and about with our dogs.
Ice and Snow
Ice can be as much of an injury risk for our dogs as it is for us, even if they don’t have as far to fall as us! Don’t let dogs walk out onto frozen ponds or lakes and be especially careful of ball and catch games in icy weather, as the landings and stops can lead to some serious injuries if they hit ice and land awkwardly. Ice and snow can also hide sharp objects like broken glass that your dog won’t see, so keep to paths where you can find them! Just as with the leaves in the autumn, if we do get heavy snowfall, many dogs simply love playing in it and we want them to have great fun. Go where you know the terrain and choose flat ground rather than walking on steeply sloped land, as snow can be deeper than your dog realises and can also become loose and rapidly take all that is within it down the slope. It is a long time since we have had that kind of heavy snow in the UK but nature can catch us out and baby avalanches can happen!
Dogs with Long Coats and Furry Feet
Dogs with long coats and furry feet can end up with ice balling under the feet. This can be very painful. To help prevent this you can either use a good canine foot balm or use boots. If you get caught out you can use a hairdryer on the warm setting to melt the ice or soak the feet in warm water. It is a very good idea to wash your dog’s feet off after road and path walks in the winter as the salt and chemicals in grit can cause bad reactions in some dogs.
Dogs Feel The Cold Too!
Be careful leaving your dog in the car for any length of time on cold days, as the car can become very cold and your dog cannot move normally in a car to keep warm. Very young, old, sick or short-coated dogs are particularly susceptible to the cold. Despite having a fur coat, dogs can still feel the cold and in severe weather can even get frost bite, particularly of the ears, tail and feet so make sure that you understand your own dogs reactions to cold and for those that really feel the cold or in severe weather, consider a coat and even leg warmers (especially useful for any dog with metal implants from bone and joint surgery). Watch out for cold wet weather as we might feel OK in our coats but once your dog is wet, the cold can be much more invasive for them.
At home ensure that your dog has the choice of a draft free bed and cosy bedding even if they might still choose the floor for some of the time. For heat hugging dogs do ensure that you use a fireguard around open fires or heaters to prevent burns. Never leave a dog in a room with an open fire without a fireguard.
Fleas and Ticks In The Winter
Many people think that there are no ticks and fleas in winter, but sadly with fleas in particular they tend to centre even more around the house in colder condition. Infestations can even be worse at this time of year, particularly if, for example, infested cats that might spend most of the summer outdoors, decide to come in the house for longer periods in the colder months. Frosty conditions can also make it even easier for dogs to pick up recent visits from wildlife such as foxes, that may also come closer to humans at this time of the year as food becomes scarcer. They too can share their parasite! So do regularly check you animals for fleas and if it stays mild for ticks also.
Last but not least a lot of dogs like to drink water out doors and may become dehydrated in the winter if bowls are frozen or choose contaminated water if it is all that is available, making themselves ill. If your dog prefers out door water make sure that you refresh outdoor bowls regularly.