Five of the Biggest Winter Health Hazards for Dogs

As a dog owner, keeping your dog away from potential hazards is one aspect of being a responsible pet owner. By reducing the likelihood of your dog facing potential hazards, you are keeping your pet safe and healthy. There are different hazards that your dog may come across in different settings and situations. There are also hazards that are specific to the seasons and having knowledge of these can give you the foresight to prevent your dog from any negative experiences during the colder months. Here are five of the biggest hazards your dog may face in winter.

1. Temperatures Below Freezing

Just like humans, dogs are affected by the cold. While all dogs can suffer health problems or discomfort at temperatures below 20-degrees Fahrenheit, there are some dogs that can begin to suffer problems relating to the cold at higher temperatures. In fact, 32-degrees Fahrenheit is cold enough to affect some groups of dogs. These include young dogs, old dogs, dogs with thin coats, and smaller dog breeds. You should never leave your dog outside alone in colder temperatures. If you are out taking a walk in the cold with your dog and it begins to shiver, then it is time to head home with your pet to get them warm. It is worth investing in a dog coat to give your dog some protection against cold weather.

2. Frozen Water

In freezing temperatures, any bodies of water can become frozen. Ponds, lakes, and rivers can all get a layer of ice across the surface, but this can vary in thickness. It is impossible to tell whether the body of water is covered in thick ice that can withstand heavy weights or just a thin layer of ice that will crack when touched. Over larger surface areas, the thickness of the ice can vary from one point to the next. For this reason, you should not let your dog play on frozen bodies of water. There is a risk of the ice cracking and your dog falling into the freezing water below. It may be too difficult for your dog to get out of the water and their accident is potentially fatal.

3. Hypothermia

One condition that can develop as a result of cold temperatures is hypothermia. This can happen if your dog spends too long in the cold and it causes their body temperature to drop too low. Some of the symptoms of hypothermia include weakness, shivering, slow or shallow breathing, and unresponsiveness. If you believe that your dog is suffering from hypothermia, you should wrap them in warm blankets to start raising their body temperature and take them to the veterinarian immediately. Treatment to reverse your dog’s body temperature can then begin as soon as possible to prevent any long-term damage.

4. Toxicity from Ice Melt

A hazard that you might not necessarily see or be aware of is ice melt toxicity. This relates to the chemicals in products used to melt snow or ice on cars, driveways, and walkways. Touching these toxins with their feet is dangerous for dogs, as is ingesting any of the chemicals. If your dog’s skin comes into contact with ice melt toxins, it can cause symptoms including cracking of the skin, burning, and irritation. Toxin ingestion can cause sickness, diarrhea, staggering, confusion, weakness, and seizures. Steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of ice melt toxicity include putting booties on your dog for walks, washing their paws when returning home, avoiding places you know chemicals have been used to melt snow or ice, and not allowing your dog to eat the snow.

5. Frostbite

Frostbite is a condition that affects the extremities when exposed to cold temperatures for a prolonged period. If your dog spends a long time outdoors in extreme weather, then this is a condition that may affect them. Usually, frostbite will affect the paws, ears, and tail of a dog. Frostbite causes your dog to experience severe pain, skin discoloration, and swelling in the affected areas. In extreme cases, it can lead to amputation of the affected areas as the tissue eventually dies. If you suspect that your dog has frostbite, wrap them in warm blankets and take them straight to the veterinarian for treatment.


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