Outdoor Winter Hazards

Oh, the weather outside is frightful! Whether you have a couch potato or a snow dog, it is important to be aware of outdoor winter hazards! Now that winter is here; we decided that it would be important to share some great safety tips.

Although most people recognize the signs of a cold dog-like paw lifting or shivering- your pet may also be trying to tell you they are cold by whining or appearing anxious. Did you know that dogs can get frostbite? Frostbite can happen anytime it is cold because the body naturally responds by pulling blood from extremities to keep vital organs warm – which is why tiny toes, ears, and tails are most commonly impacted by frostbite. Watch your pet for any signs such as skin discolouration, blisters, swelling, or pain when you touch the body part. In addition to frostbite, the cold weather also puts your dog at risk of hypothermia. Hypothermia can happen anytime your dog is outside for an extended period in freezing temperatures, especially if they are wet during these cold temperatures. Early signs of hypothermia may include muscle stiffness, lethargy or general weakness. Severe hypothermia is life-threatening, so it is important to recognize first signs!

One option for your animal is winter gear! It is critical to keep an eye on their feet for more reasons than one. In addition to dog feet being more sensitive to the cold and snow, they can also be irritated by the sand/salt spread on the streets and sidewalks. For this reason, many people choose to put boots on their dogs. It is essential to make sure that the boots are properly fitted and are adequately waterproof for Winnipeg winters. One way to get your dog used to wearing booties is to put them in baby socks when they are in the house so that they get used to something on their feet. If your dog won’t allow boots, or you chose not to have them wear boots, ensure that you are checking their feet regularly when out for walks and cleaning them off after walks (as salt can not only irritate their skin/pads but could be toxic if ingested).

Jackets are also important for many dogs in the winter. Apart from looking adorable, many dogs need the extra warmth of a coat. Short haired breeds such as French Bulldogs, Miniature Pinschers, Chihuahuas, Grey Hounds (and many more) should wear jackets, as they tend to get colder much faster than other breeds because of their coats. Same goes for any short-legged breeds, such as Corgis, Dachshunds or Basset Hounds because of their proximity to the ground. It is also suggested that puppies, senior dogs, or any dogs who suffer from kidney or heart issues wear a jacket or sweater to give them extra protection from hypothermia. When dressing your dog in a jacket, it is important to watch for any behaviour changes or signs of overheating, such as panting. However, it is also important to note that large breed dogs (especially those with double coats) such as Huskies, Saint Bernards, Border Collies or German Shepherds, do not need sweaters/jackets because their natural coats keep them warm in winter.

Don’t forget, winter snuggles with your furry friend are the best way to stay warm!

Written by Centennial Animal Hospital