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home : columns : columns June 25, 2016

2/11/2014 1:02:00 PM
Keep your dog safe in the snow
Oliver playing in the snow. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee
+ click to enlarge
Oliver playing in the snow. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee

By Jodi Schneider McNamee

The biggest snowstorm in years just transformed your yard into a winter wonderland, and your furry friend can't wait to get out there and play in the white stuff.

Most dogs can't resist rolling in fresh snow or running through tunnels you're shoveling to get to the street. Refereeing a good snow ball fight is fun for Fido, too.

Just like a kid, your pooch might not know when it's time to come in from the cold, so it's up to you as a good pet parent to bring him in before problems occur.

Walking your pooch in snow and ice can be hard on paws, particularly on pads that are not toughened up, or for a dog that is a breed which doesn't tolerate cold well. The three main problems that can affect your furry friend's paws in cold snowy weather are overly cold paws, buildup of ice balls and de-icing (salt) products. All these can cause a dog pain, and potentially damage to one or more paws.

Most dogs do not seem to have a problem with snow if the temperature is at or just below freezing. Each dog is different, and some tend to have a problem with overly cold paws during extremely cold and snowy days.

De-icer can be irritating to dogs' paws, and toxic if Fido licks an excessive amount from his paws (it can cause gastrointestinal upset and vomiting). Always use pet-safe de-icer, but it's still best that your pet not ingest it.

For many dogs, the main problem with snow is the buildup of ice balls under the pads and in between the toes. Ice balls can be as irritating to a dog's foot as a pebble in a shoe can be for a human. Since the ice balls are formed around the hair on the paw pads, they need to be broken up as gently as possible without pulling them out.

Remember to check Fido's paws after coming in from a snowy walk, particularly when you've walked in areas that could have been treated with de-icer. Be sure to check between the toes and look at his pads for any cracks or sore spots. Gently wash off your dogs' paws with a warm cloth upon returning home.

Did you know that the dogs (mushers) in the Iditarod Sled Race wear booties to protect their paws from abrasions? Dog boots aren't for all dogs, but they can help with many of the problems that some pooches have with snow. They keep their feet warmer, prevent the buildup of ice balls and they stop de-icing products from getting on the pads and between the toes.

More than irritated paws can affect your furry friend during snowy days.

If you have a medium-to-long-haired pooch, watch out for the abominable snowdog after a romp or two in the white stuff. Ice balls stuck in Fido's fur can be a big mess. Be gentle when you remove these frozen ice balls. Use a warm, moist towel to help melt the balls and then use a dry towel to dry your dog's coat. Do not try to pull them out of Fido's fur; it can be painful.

You and your dog enjoy playing in the snow, but you also need to keep safety in mind.

Don't leave your dog outside in the cold for long periods of time. Extreme cold poses a frostbite threat to your dog's nose and ears.

Remember to provide plenty of fresh water. Your pooch is just as likely to get dehydrated in the winter as in the summer. Snow is not a satisfactory substitute for water.

Our dogs cannot talk to us when they are sick or in pain. As a responsible pet parent, it is important to pay special attention to your dog's well being during the winter season.

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