8 Winter Safety Tips for Dogs

winter safety tips for dogs - dog in snow with scarf

With cold temperatures, chemicals, and more, winter can pose many hazards to you and your dog. It’s important for both of you to stay safe and be aware of potential winter dog dangers in order to avoid them. Here are some winter safety tips for dogs that all dog owners need to know:

1. Combat Poor Visibility

Winter brings cold temperatures, harsh weather, and also fewer daylight hours, which means low and poor visibility for you, your dog, and others while outside. This can increase the risk of slips and falls for you and your dog while out on walks. Poor visibility can also increase the risk of road traffic accidents.

If you have to walk your dog near a road in the dark, there is also poor visibility for drivers, which can increase the risk of them potentially hitting you or your dog. Wearing reflective gear and carrying a flashlight are just a few safety tips for walking your dog in the dark you can use to combat poor visibility during the winter.

2. Avoid Hypothermia

Many dog breeds, especially small breeds, senior dogs, and those with short, thin fur, get cold easily. Walking can be a great way to keep your dog active in the winter. But, as the temperatures drop, they may need some extra help staying warm while out on walks.

As temperatures drop below freezing, it’s important for both you and your dog to bundle up to avoid hypothermia. The exceptions to this rule are arctic and cold-weather snow dog breeds like Siberian Huskies, Saint Bernards, and more that have thick coats to keep them insulated.

If your dog is not an arctic or cold-weather breed, putting on a dog sweater or dog coat can help your pooch maintain some body heat while they are outside. But, if your dog’s sweater gets wet from cold rain or snow, it’s important to remove it once you come inside. If their fur is wet, it’s generally a good idea to towel them off once they’re inside as well.

Also, you want to make sure you only put a dry sweater on your dog when you have to go outside again. A cold, wet sweater or fur doesn’t do your pup any favors, especially out in the cold where it increases their risk for hypothermia and other issues.

3. Be Aware of Frostbite

Dog paws are not immune to frostbite and getting frostbite while out on a walk in the cold can happen. In addition to frostbite concerns, snow and ice can also ball up and get stuck in the space between their toes and paw pads, which can make movement painful.

You wear socks and boots when you venture out into the snow and cold to protect your feet and your pup’s paw pads are no different. Dog boots, paw wax, and other winter dog products protect your dog’s paw pads from the cold and they also protect them from getting harsh and dangerous winter chemicals like antifreeze and some ice melts on their paws.

4. Check Paws Regularly

Checking your dog’s paws regularly can help keep their feet healthy and comfortable during the winter. Pup paws can get just as dry as our hands during the winter! Their paw pads are susceptible to cracking and bleeding as well, so don’t forget to periodically check on them.

They may even need lotion. Not just any lotion will do. Lotions for humans will soften the pads too much and going without that extra toughness can lead to more problems down the road, so try to get a paw cream designed for dogs.

Even coconut oil can work well, in moderation. You can even make your own paw balm at home. Make sure to rub the paw balm gently onto the pad and between their little toes for optimum moisturizing. This is also a good opportunity to make sure their ears and tail aren’t dry or cracking as well.

5. Stay Wary of Harsh Winter Chemicals

There are a lot of chemicals that pop up during the winter that can be very dangerous, if not fatal, to your dog. Ice melts and many road chemicals are harsh and can make your dog sick if ingested, which most commonly happens when dogs lick their paws after a walk. Find a dog-friendly ice melt for use at home and then try to avoid contact with harsh winter chemicals away from home.

Outfitting your dog with dog boots while outdoors and wiping their paws clean when they come inside can help prevent the potential ingestion of chemicals. These are some important winter safety tips for dogs. Setting up a post-walk station inside your house to remove boots, clean off paws, and dry off is one of the tips to get your dog ready for winter.

Antifreeze is Dangerous

Antifreeze is a big danger to dogs. It tends to have a sweet taste to dogs, but can be fatal if ingested and not immediately treated. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which poisons your dog and can be fatal within 72 hours.

Because this substance can sometimes be found on driveways and anywhere you walk your dog that shares space with cars, it’s important to know the signs of antifreeze poisoning, so you can get your dog help as soon as possible.

Within 30 minutes to 12 hours of consumption, your dog may stumble and appear “drunk”. They may also be drooling excessively and vomiting. It’s important to get your dog to the vet for help as soon as you see these signs as serious internal injury tends to occur within 12 to 24 hours. If left untreated, acute kidney failure sometimes accompanied by seizures or coma occurs within 36 and 72 hours.

6. Prevent Dehydration

It’s important to make sure your dog has access to plenty of water during the winter. Winter weather is often very dry weather and causes dogs to lose a lot of moisture through their breath, which can quickly lead to dehydration. By giving your dog plenty of water to drink before and after walks, you can help make sure they stay hydrated.

7. Keep Up With Preventive Medications

Many owners stop certain medications for dogs over the winter, thinking that it’s safe. For example, owners stop flea treatments and heartworm medication that may not seem necessary during the winter when the parasites aren’t breeding. However, it’s crucial to continue regimented medication throughout the year.

While it’s true that fleas don’t breed during the winter, they have a much more nefarious means of staying alive. In the fall, fleas leave behind eggs and resilient pupae that survive even the toughest conditions. Plus, ticks that have started to “hibernate” in the cold will become active on warmer days. If pups don’t stay on their flea medication over the winter, those flea pupae will live to see another summer.

The myth that owners can also stop giving heartworm medication during the winter is a more dangerous one. According to the FDA, just because mosquitos aren’t as common during the winter doesn’t mean they’re all gone.

Mosquitoes can infect dogs with heartworms all year round, so stopping heartworm medication can lead to disastrous results. Heartworm in dogs is serious and any interruption in protection can leave your dog vulnerable, so you want to avoid it as much as you can.

8. Stop Them From Getting Too Close to Heaters

Although space heaters and fireplaces can be great ways to help heat your home in the winter, they also tend to be winter dog dangers. If they are feeling chilly, dogs can get too close to space heaters and other heat sources. Usually, they move away if they get too warm, but sometimes they get too close and end up burned.

If you have baseboard radiators, you can install covers to help prevent animals and children from accessing the heating elements. If you have a fireplace, a screen can keep your dog from getting too close to the open flame.

You can try to avoid using space heaters, but this is not always feasible in some homes. A screen, gate, or protective cage can help provide a perimeter to keep animals and people from getting too close.

These are just a few winter safety tips for dogs to keep in mind and keep you both safe when temperatures drop. Even if your dog is built for the cold and loves to lay in the snow, you’ll still need to keep an eye out for winter dog dangers and help protect your pup.