Two Bernese Mountain Dog puppies sitting in snow.

Essential Winter Safety Tips to Practice with Your Pup

December is here, and that means winter has arrived! What’s better than playing in the snow with your furry friend as the temperatures dip? Although it can be an enjoyable experience for both you and your pup, it’s important to keep safety top of mind.

Preparing Your Pup for Extreme Cold

It’s a common misconception that because dogs have fur, they don’t feel the cold the same way we do, but a dog’s cold tolerance depends on their coat, fat stores, and activity level.

Just like humans, dogs can be susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite in chilly temperatures. If your dog starts shivering, whining, whimpering, or searching for a warm place, get them back to a warm environment quickly.

Frostbite can take a couple of days to show up in dogs, making it hard to detect damage early. Ears, tails, and paws are the most likely locations for frostbite to develop. If you suspect frostbite, contact your veterinary professional immediately.

Pay close attention to your pup’s cues – winter doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to spend time outdoors with your pet, but you might have to shorten your walks or give your dog a warm sweater or coat to help them conserve heat.

Ice Safety for Dogs (And Owners, Too!)

We all know ice is very slippery for both humans and our canine friends. Dogs who are out running or playing can very easily fall and injure themselves in icy conditions. Ice can also be sharp on unprotected paws (more on that later!), leading to painful paw pad lacerations and even infection in serious cases.

Keeping your dog on a leash is always recommended, but especially during winter. Dogs wandering off leash can be especially vulnerable to injury in the winter during snowstorms when visibility on roadways is limited.

Avoid letting your dog off leash around frozen lakes, ponds, or other large bodies of water. It can be difficult to discern whether ice is thick and strong enough to support your dog’s weight. If your dog falls through the ice, it can be deadly, and can put both your lives on the line. Know the dangers of ice and steer clear when possible.

Winter Paw Protection and Care

If you’re out on a winter walk, be sure to pay attention to your puppy’s paws – sudden trouble walking can be caused by snow accumulation between their toes. Very gently, remove the snow or ice buildup to help them regain their ability. Trimming the hair between your dog’s toes can help to decrease the chance of snow accumulation – ask your groomer for their help.

Ice melts used regularly during the winter season often contain sodium salts that can cause irritation, redness, and cracking to fragile puppy paw pads. Ingestion of these salts can also have toxic neurological effects on dogs (such as tremors and seizures) and gastrointestinal irritation. If using ice melts is unavoidable, try to find “pet-friendly” solutions to minimize these negative effects.

Remember these pet safety tips as you enjoy the winter weather together this season. Do you have other winter safety advice for fellow dog owners? Follow along with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to share your tips!

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