When it comes to our pets, winter serves up its own set of safety concerns. We know not to leave them outdoors too long and to protect tender pads when walking on salty roads, but is that enough? And what do we do when in spite of our best efforts, weather related injuries occur?

By being proactive, you can ensure your pets have a warm and toasty winter.

Dog and cat laying together under a blanket

Bring Your Pet Inside

Even if he loves the colder weather and has a good winter coat, bring your dog inside most of the time. Hypothermia can set in after extended exposure to cold, which compromises a dog’s central nervous system. Strong shivering, shallow breathing, or lethargy are symptoms and require urgent action. Warm blankets (in a clothes dryer) and wrap him up with a covered hot water bottle against his abdomen. Give him warm fluids to drink, keep him in a warm room or space, and contact your vet.

Grooming Routine Changes

If your dog’s grooming includes regular clipping or shaving, opt for a longer cut (or none at all). Any baths should be followed by a thorough blow dry. And don’t forget your dog’s paws—use quality paw wax prior to each walk as it forms a protective barrier between pads and salt/ice to prevent dry, cracked pads. Don’t use a hand moisturizer on your dog’s paws as this can soften pads and make them susceptible to further injury.

Husky dog outside in the snow

Obedience Commands

Heeding your commands during winter is especially important. Commands such as “leave it” can save your dog’s life if you come across antifreeze—a sweet smelling and tasting chemical that can be deadly to any pet that stops to sniff and lick when out for a walk. For those who go off-leash in remote areas, your dog can become lost on a snowy trail or wander onto a partially frozen lake. Make sure calling “come”, or his name, is respected.

Prepare for Walks

Dogs with a shorter coat, who are older, or have health issues, need jackets. Salt and ice can result in cracked pads, so get your pooch used to wearing booties. On super cold days, plan shorter routes to avoid frostbite and consider a pee pad so he can stay indoors. If frostbite does occur, gently warm the affected areas using warm water compresses or by soaking in warm water. Pat dry, and keep your dog from licking the affected area before you can get him to your vet.

Chocolate lab with snow on his face

Dry Off

When your dog comes in from the snow, thoroughly wipe down his face, paws and stomach. Rock salt, antifreeze, or other potentially dangerous chemicals could be stuck on his paws. If ingested, these can cause stomach problems, or in the case of antifreeze, can lead to kidney failure. And it’s always good practice to check paw pads every time you come in from the cold, as they can get cut from hard snow or encrusted ice.

Light it Up

With winter comes shorter days. Even in the early evening, the sun is starting to set and it gets dark quickly. Make sure cars and other pedestrians can see you and your pooch coming with reflective leashes and clothing, light-up colors and tags, or use a small flashlight (just attach it to your leash handle so you never forget it).

By: Amy Tokic