This time of year in New England usually comes paired with Holiday cheer, beautiful landscapes, and very cold weather! But, just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean that you can’t get out there and enjoy all this area has to offer during the winter. Hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and more are all great winter activities that many people like to enjoy with their four-legged companions. Just like you need to take special preparations to go outside during the winter, take a moment to learn how to keep your pet safe, happy, and healthy before taking him outside for a day of winter fun.
Beware of potential environmental hazards
The winter landscape offers some potential threats to the safety of your pet that aren’t around during the warmer months. Ice covered snow can often cause superficial abrasions or cuts on your dog’s feet or legs, so be sure that you are monitoring the area they are walking in. Try to keep them off the very crusty snow as much as possible, or equip them with boots if their feet or legs are especially sensitive. Smaller scrapes can be treated at home with a topical antibiotic ointment but larger cuts should be treated with antibiotics and pain medication by a veterinarian.
Frozen bodies of water can also be a source of danger- for both you and your dog. Make sure that the body of water is completely frozen over if you or your dog will be attempting to walk on the ice. Keeping your pet leashed on a walk can help to prevent them from running over what they perceive to be solid footing, and falling through the ice. If your dog does fall through the ice, he can become hypothermic in the same way as people. Keep him as warm as possible until you can get him immediately to a veterinarian who can slowly and effectively raise his core body temperature to try and keep him from going into shock.
Watch out for winter poisons
Antifreeze is very toxic to our pets and this fluid is seen on the ground more frequently during the colder months. Thankfully, newer antifreeze products are now manufactured with a bad taste to discourage our pets from drinking the formerly very sweet fluid. Symptoms of antifreeze toxicity can include incoordination, drooling, vomiting, excessive drinking and urinating, lethargy, tremors, seizures, and coma. This is a very serious condition that can cause death if not treated immediately by a veterinarian.
Ice melt and road salt can also be toxic to your dog. Depending upon the type of chemical used symptoms can range from severe dehydration, increased heart rate and dangerously high body temperature to gastrointestinal upset if ingested. Local irritation to the pads of the feet or tongue and face can also occur from topical exposure to the chemicals. The best way to avoid these situations is to walk with your dog in areas that have not been treated with ice melt or road salts. If this is not possible, outfitting your pet with booties is the nest best option. As a last resort, discourage your pet from licking his paws during your time outside and make sure to rinse his paws and legs thoroughly once you are back inside.
Hand warmers are another potential source of trouble for your pet. These great little gadgets are usually made from iron which can wreak havoc on your pet’s system if ingested. Large amounts of iron can cause vomiting, bloody diarrhea, lethargy, abdominal pain, increased heart rate and panting. Iron ingestion can be very serious and should be treated by a veterinarian immediately.
With this important information in your back pocket you should be ready to enjoy the winter weather with your four-legged friend by your side! If you have any questions regarding winter safety and your pet please do not hesitate to contact River Road Veterinary Clinic at (802)649-3877.