No matter what, most dogs need to go outdoors for potty walks and exercise, regardless of the weather. And those of us at the other end of the leash may also find some challenges as the weather gets colder and the walks get slippery! With our first snow of the season it's important to remember some safety tips to make the winter more enjoyable for us and our pets. Ready, set, go for more chilly months ahead!
Protect those paws:
Ever wonder why our dogs don't seem to mind walking bare-paw on the frozen ground? Well, they do feel cold and imagine having frozen ice between your toes let alone salt from the ice melter we use on our walkways? We need to be mindful of the hazards on icy walks. Keep the hair trimmed between and under the paws to prevent ice balls from forming as your dog walks or plays in the snow. Some dogs are intolerant of the cold and will hold their paws up or may be reluctant to even walk on the snow or uneven surfaces of melting and refrozen ice. I was reminded of this today as I walked my dog, Mia who was having trouble navigating partially plowed sidewalks and melting puddles as the temperature hovered around freezing. It was almost as though she was actually lame! Once we came inside, I inspected her paws for cuts and scrapes from ice and wiped inbetween her toes to ensure no salt was stuck so that there would be no burns. Even with my guiding her around most hazards she probably will need some pain management as she has arthritis and the cold weather makes it harder for her. Tomorrow she gets her turn in the heated under water treadmill to soothe those joints and keep her comfortable.
If the weather is too cold for you when properly dressed, it's probably too cold for your dog. Walks should be shorter and perhaps more frequent to avoid problems. Yes, our dogs have a fur coat, but that may not be enough on some days. Those short coated dogs probably need protection with a coat -and we're not just talking fashion statement! And, boots? well there is some advantage to covering the paws: if they stay on!!! ... but haven't found any that do. If you know of a style or type that does: please let me know. There are some waxes made for the paws of dogs that help prevent snow and ice from sticking: try Musher's Secret. Also, those groomed breeds may need protection right after a hair cut. Our groomer, Christine was really busy yesterday despite the sleet, snow, hail, and rain that alternated throughout the day. No sacrificing that day of beauty: and I know that well--it would probably take alot more than the weather for me to miss my hair appointment, either!
4 on the floor beats 2 every time: avoid slips and falls:
You need proper footwear for walking your dog, too. Prevent slipping and falling which may cause you to drop the leash and have your dog run off (another good reason to microchip your pet) or holding on for dear life and being pulled down resulting in injury or broken bones: no more walks until you're healed. Bad for you and bad for your dog!! Use a proper fitting leash and collar or even a harness for more control. And, always have your dog on a leash unless you're in a fenced area. Venturing out onto a frozen pond or river may have terrible consequences if they (and you) fall into frozen water.
Just a reminder, too, don't forget flea and tick prevention: fleas generally will be a indoor problem once we've had a week of below freezing weather- they'll spend the winter as your uninvited indoor pests but ticks don't care: they're a nuisance indoor and out even with below zero temperatures. And , if the temperatures get above 50-60 degrees as forecasted, then mosquitoes carrying heartworm can infect your dogs and cats. So keep up with heartworm prevention: easier to prevent this disease than to treat the life threatening problems related to this parasite.
Remember, some days are really just too problematic even with the best planning and preparation. You may have to shovel and create an elimination area in the yard and /or use an elimination pad or station in the house or garage for smaller pets. And, don't forget that dogs will also get "cabin fever "so give some thoughts to indoor activities for exercise and environmental enrichment. For those dogs who miss their exercise, we can help at Animal Health Care with our under water treadmill with warmed water and gentle exercises to keep those joints limber and flexible until the spring weather returns. As always, ask your pet's vet for advice: our animal health care team is only too happy to help: we're just a phone call, email, follow or tweet away.