The term “a winter wonderland” doesn’t always exactly describe the winter months that consume four months out of the year. While the image of white flakes falling from the sky can be quite beautiful, there are several walking hazards that come with the beautiful white blankets of snow.
In order to keep Fido safe, there are several precautions that can be taken to avoid a possible mishap. Overlooking the obvious dangerous terrain that winter produces; it’s easy to forget the underlying dangers such as chemicals or hidden glass, anti-freeze poisoning, or frostbite. However, with a few simple precautions, you can keep your pup (and even yourself) from danger and an enormous vet bill.
It may look like your neighbor is doing an Irish gig on the sidewalk, but he is probably slipping and sliding from all the ice. The icy tundra that can cover roads and sidewalks is a death trap for you and your pup. Just like humans, without the proper pup footwear, dogs can have a difficult time gaining traction on the ice.
Puppies tend to be clumsy and a little off balance, which can make your walk a bit difficult. Fragile bones make them an easy target for slippery ice.
As for bigger dogs, if they fall, you might see a cup of water vibrate, just like in Jurassic Park. Giants fall harder and that can mean bigger bone fractures or breaks. By obtaining the right shoes, pets (and humans) can gain better traction that can dramatically reduce the number of falls.
Types of Fractures
- Compound – breaks that have torn through the flesh and punctured the skin. Compound fractures are very serious, sometimes resulting in infection or high blood loss and extremely painful.
- Simple – breaks that have not torn through the flesh. Simple fractures have little risk for infection, but can still be very painful.
Symptoms of a Fractured Limb or Paw
- Avoiding walking on one paw
- Abnormal angle of the leg
- Swelling along one of the bones
- Pain to the touch
Many townships, apartment complexes, HOA’s, and such will take the time to lend a hand when it comes to the ice fiasco. The downside? Some use pet-friendly products to melt ice, while others use products that aren’t so safe for Fido.
The chemicals that are used to clear sidewalks and roads can irritate animals’ unprotected feet or leave small abrasions in the foot pads.
This isn’t the worst outcome, however, because if your dog is anything like mine, they eat anything and everything. If a pup happens to ingest the chemical by licking their paws, it could result in stomach and intentional problems, or even (gasp!) death.
To save your poochie from a potentially dangerous fate, there are two precautions that an owner can do.
- Dog booties are a great option that can protect the foot pads and keep packed snow and ice out of the spaces between their toes. They will provide your pet with more traction control, foot pad protection, and keep their paws dry from nasty ground chemicals.
- If your pet doesn’t tolerate wearing boots, a warm towel can go a long way. Immediately after a walk, it can save you and your pup a lot of grief, simply by diligently wiping off their paws. When buying a de-icer, it’s important to look for ones that are eco-friendly. By calling the 1-800 # on the back, you can find more information about the safety of the product. Also, knowing what chemicals are harmful to your dog is helpful, so you know what to stay away from.
Hazardous Chemicals in De-icers
- Sodium chloride
- Potassium chloride
- Magnesium chloride
- Calcium carbonate
- Calcium magnesium acetate
After watching murder, upon murder shows, one key thing I’ve learned about antifreeze is that it has a sweet taste. While I’ve never tasted it, I can say that TV has come in quite handy with the knowledge of avoiding antifreeze.
The fatal substance is common in driveways in the winter. Some car owners take care of their car very carefully, which can involve antifreeze/coolant changes to prepare for harsh winter weather.
A spill is common, and usually unintentional, but the small accident can be a fatal one. The sweet, intoxicating, smell and taste can be a lure for pups. The main ingredient in antifreeze is ethylene glycol. If ingested, the toxic chemical could lead to severe illnesses and even death.
According to Petxtreme, “The mortality rate in dogs poisoned by antifreeze ranges from 50 to 70% and is thought to be even higher in cats.” That is an extremely high number! If the animal isn’t treated immediately, nervous system damage or kidney damage could occur, if death doesn’t come first.
The best way to avoid an encounter with the toxic chemical is to keep a close eye on your pooch. Antifreeze spills could potentially drain off someone’s driveway into street gutters. By restricting your pooch’s intake of foreign pools of water or ice/snow runoff, you can better protect your dog from unknown chemicals.
If you happen to be the one to create a spill, immediately grab a water hose or bucket of water to wash away the substance. If you do have the availability of a water hose, spraying the puddle until it winds up in a drainage vent, is the best way to prevent animal ingestion.
In addition, by keeping products off the ground and away from the reach of pets or children, you can prevent accidents that will save you in the long run. If you have suspected that your pet has ingested the toxin, you might be able to save them by rushing to your nearest veterinarian.
Antifreeze poisoning accelerates through the bloodstream quickly, wreaking havoc on their body. If you notice any symptoms of antifreeze poisoning, don’t hesitate, and get help immediately.
Symptoms of Antifreeze Poisoning
- Drunken behavior
- Euphoria/Delirium Wobbly, uncoordinated movement
- Excessive urination
- Rapid heart beat
- Seizures/Convulsions/Shaking tremors
Animals love to romp and play in the snow. I’m sure many times you’ve let Fido out to watch him roll around and bury his face in the wet, white blanket that covers your hydrangeas. However, pets can let their passion for outside play get into the way of their nerve endings.
They often times don’t notice when their body is trying to tell them they’re too cold. Freezing temperatures can cause blood to become diverted to the core body systems, such as the heart, etc. While the body is protecting its’ inner organs, the outer organs, like the skin, become at high risk for freezing.
Once the skin becomes frozen, tissue damage can occur. Pets and humans alike will start to feel a burning sensation on the skin. Humans’ most sensitive spots include fingers, nose, and toes, while animals’ footpads, nose, ear tips, and tail are at the highest risk.
The best precaution to take is to watch your time. Taking Fido out for long periods can cause frostbite to ensue in freezing temperatures. Simply by watching your time and looking for symptoms of frostbite can help keep your pup safe.
Symptoms of Frostbite
- Pale, hard skin that remains very cold even after being inside
- Skin discoloration on the ears, tail and toes
- Pain and swelling
- Sloughing of skin
- Skin ulcers
You may notice your dog attempting to lick or chew on its skin. This can potentially cause more damage. By covering the area and following some treatment steps, you may be able to save your pup from further damage.
- NEVER EVER apply hot water to the area.
- Simply WARM the area with a slightly warmed or lukewarm, wet compress.
- Do NOT use a heating pad or hair dryer.
- Thoroughly, but gently, dry the warmed area.
- Blot, but be sure NOT to rub or massage the infected area.
- Immediately contact your vet for a visit.
- Wrap your pet in a warm (NOT HOT) towel or blanket before moving him.
- Do NOT give any pain medicine; your vet will do that for you if it is needed.
- Do NOT warm the affected area if you cannot keep it warm.
The worst case scenario with frostbite can result in the loss of a limb. Typically, a limb is removed to stop the spread of infection.
By wrapping Fido up in a nice warm dog coat, you can help keep your pup nice and warm. Dog coats offer protection from harsh weather, as well as giving your pup the mobility to free romp and play.
All of these precautions can help you and your pup enjoy a safe and playful season. Winter doesn’t have to be all about the bitter cold and slippery ice. Rather, it can be a time of playing in the snow, warm cuddling sessions, and most importantly, a unique bonding time between pet owner and animal.
Don’t let winter hazards stand in your way. Protect your pet and yourself by simply avoiding unnecessary hazards.