How to Safely Walk Your Dog in Winter
Dogs are just as susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia as humans, so walking your pet on frosty mornings and dark nights can be a challenge. During winter walks, most of us wear extra layers and drink plenty of hot fluids to stay warm when we’re outside — but how do you keep your dog safe throughout the coldest part of the year, too? To help, the team at Feedem has explored the best and simplest ways you can walk your dog in winter to ensure their health, comfort and happiness!
Stop them eating snow
On your winter walk, you’ll notice that paths and roads are coated with grit and chemical ice-melting solutions. These contain high levels of metals and minerals that are toxic to your pet (if ingested) while large amounts of snow can cause diarrhoea and vomiting. This condition is often called Winter Blap and you can prevent it by making sure your dog has plenty of water before you leave home and keeping a close eye on them during your walk.
Have you considered your dog’s winter diet? If your pet is spending the same or more time on walks, they’ll need a slight food increase to keep them comfy and healthy, and nutrition such as grain-free dog food will give your pooch all the nourishment they need in winter. However, if they don’t like the snow and chilliness of the season and are spending more time inside, you could reduce their food intake to prevent them from gaining too much weight — especially since weight fluctuations in dogs is particularly dangerous.
Dog treats and biscuits will help keep their strength up on long, chilly walks, while adding olive or coconut oil to your dog’s bowl of food once a day will help keep their skin moisturised — helpful when the air is frosty and the ground is peppered with salt. Try half a teaspoon for a small dog, a full teaspoon for a medium-sized pooch, and a tablespoon (or less) for a large hound.
Stay safe from ice
Do you walk your dog around a pond or lake? If so, you might want to keep them on a lead and try to keep them distracted from running off by taking a selection of their favourite dog toys along with you.
Walking your dog in winter means you run the risk that they’ll bound onto frozen water and could potentially plunge underneath the surface, or they might even contract frostbite if they spend enough time on the icy surface. Frostbite is a serious risk to animals who aren’t as aware of the risks and will continue to play in the snow and on ice as the condition sets in.
Be vigilant against frostbite by checking your dog’s paws, tail, ears, and nose — the most common areas for frostbite on a dog. If they’re suffering from frostbite, their skin will be pale, cold and hard before turning puffy and red once they’re home from their walk and start heating up again. To treat it, place a warm cloth or towel on the affected area and stop your dog from biting or scratching — this could cause an infection.
Dog clothes and boots
One of the best ways you can protect your pet from hypothermia and frostbite during a winter walk is by dressing them in appropriate clothing. Dog boots will prevent your dog’s paws from getting dry, chapped and sore when they walk across gritted paths, while a thick coat that covers their chest, back and abdomen will help to keep them dry when the air is frosty. We recommend a fluorescent colour to help you spot your pooch on dark nights and mornings.
Dog accessories, including reflective coats, are another good shout when it comes to preparing your dog for dark and stormy walks. Why not get them a light-up, high-visibility dog collar that they can wear all the time, just in case? If your dog is particularly affected by the cold, but you don’t want them to miss out on exercise, you could also get them a pair of ear muffs!
Keep walks short, often and well illuminated
When walking your dog in winter, make sure the route you choose is well-lit so that you can keep an eye on them at all times. Dark mornings and evenings combined with poor weather conditions significantly increase the risk that you’ll lose sight of your dog as they run around and play.
Unless you have a husky or other breed of dog that thrives in snow, it might be kinder on both of you if you make winter walks shorter. If this sounds like a good idea, but you don’t want your dog to still have bags of energy when you get back, why not give them a backpack?
Strap a backpack filled with a few light, dog-friendly items on your dog and head out for your walk. That way, your dog can use up the same amount of energy on carrying the bag while walking a shortened distance.
During winter walks, your dog’s paws are going to be in contact with ice, snow, grit, salt, and a range of other chemicals during this season. So, pay extra attention to dog grooming if you want to protect your pet as much as you can to prevent injury, pain and illness.
Trim their claws to help them get a firmer grip on frosty ground and make sure you wipe their paws with a warm cloth when they come back inside to stop them licking off any salt or chemical residue. If you want to protect your dog’s feet, but don’t want them wearing boots, why not slather their paws in petroleum jelly or a special paw balm/wax to create a barrier between your dog and the winter ground?
Shop the range at Feedem for more quality dog products to keep your pooch safe this winter.