Safely walk your dog this winter to avoid cracked paws and hypothermia

Kaleah Mcilwain

As the weather continues to drop there are a few things you need to prepare for this winter. Colder weather can be dangerous for walking dogs, and not only because people tend to want to walk them less.

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(Pierre Crom/Getty Images)

Dogs are just as susceptible to illnesses like hypothermia, frostbite, and canine influenza that come with drops in temperature. With snow and ice soon to be on the ground, there is another danger dog owners need to be aware of––chemicals.

When ice and snow start collecting on the ground, so will anti-snow and ice melting products people use to keep them away. However, these products are harmful when ingested for dogs who will walk through them and then lick them off their paws.

To make sure your dog stays safe this winter, here are five things you can do.

Keep your dog groomed

During the winter months dog’s nails and paws need extra attention. While everyone needs to and should regularly clip their dog’s nails, it is during the winter that this is most crucial. Dog’s nails will sometimes naturally wear down from concrete, asphalt, and other rough surfaces, but during the winter their nails wear down less and will collect salt and snow while on outdoor walks.

It is also important to clip your dog’s toe hair. It may sound weird but dogs toe hair is where ice can accumulate making it painful and difficult for your dog to walk once it builds up and hardens.

Lastly, moisturizing your dog’s paws will make sure they don’t get damaged from drying out. Use a special dog cream before you take your dog out for a walk to prevent them from splitting or cracking.

Limit the amount of time you spend outdoors

Contrary to popular belief, most dogs cannot sustain cold weather. During the colder months it is preferred if you walk your dog for shorter periods of time to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Unless you have a breed that is meant for colder weather like a Siberian Husky, you may want to consider putting a sweater on them to add an extra layer of insulation.

It’s also good practice to always be checking for signs your dog is getting too cold while outside. If your dog begins to whine, shiver, display anxious behavior, slow down, or stop, you should take them home immediately.

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(Top Dog Tips)

Plan ahead

Plan to walk your dog during the daytime because that’s when it’s warmest outside. It is also the safest time for you and your dog since this is the time of day when there will be the most visibility and light. If walking while the sun is up is not an option, consider carrying a flashlight.

Checking the weather beforehand is always a good idea to be aware of things like rain, sleet and snow. A good rule of thumb is if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog.

Something else to consider planning for are routes that are safest. This will help you avoid areas where there might be frozen over bodies of water and lots of snow piled up where you can’t see through it.

Avoid deep snow

A staple of the winter months is snow and while many dogs like to play in the snow, prolonged exposure isn’t good for them. Snow touching a dog's stomach drastically drops their temperature quicker than usual which can cause hypothermia to set in without you knowing. If your dog’s fur gets significantly wet while outside, be sure to dry them off and warm them up once you get in the house.

Also don’t allow your dog to eat snow because it could contain objects that you can’t see that are harmful.

Clean their paws off

A great investment for your dog during the winter months are doggy wipes. When you bring your dog in from its walk you want to wipe their paws off to protect them from salts and other irritants used to melt ice that shouldn’t be ingested.

When plowing your own stairs and driveway be sure to use a pet safe ice melt. While no ice melting product is going to be one hundred percent safe for your dog to ingest there are some that are safer than others.

Cold weather has arrived so follow these tips to make sure your dog doesn’t miss out on one of its favorite activities.

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Journalist with a background reporting on local communities, now living in and reporting on the Baltimore area. Find me on twitter!

Baltimore, MD
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