Dogs are generally tough animals with the majority of breeds having thick well-insulated coats that are very effective at keeping out the worst of the winter weather. However that doesn’t mean that you can take their wellbeing for granted in weather conditions such as we’re seeing at the moment as extreme cold and snow can present some significant risks to their health and wellbeing.
Hidden dangers – heavy snow falls can hide all sorts of hidden dangers from barbed wire to broken glass and this can lead to bruises, cuts and even broken bones. So take care on your dog walks and try to stick to well known routes to minimise the risks of unwelcome surprises from under the snow.
Sliding – Dogs often don’t know when to take it easy and strains and fractures from sliding on icy patches can be a problem in this kind of weather. It’s worth taking it a bit easier than normal and not throwing balls or sticks unless the ground offers secure footing to try to reduce the risks.
Ice – every year a number of dogs fall through thin ice and either drown or suffer from hypothermia so it’s vital to take extreme care if you walk your dog near large bodies of water such as lakes. And never ever encourage your dog onto the ice by throwing a stick as you can never be sure how thick and strong it is. If your dog does fall through the ice don’t put yourself at risk as you could easily follow them in – either try throwing them something to climb onto or call for help.
Ice-balls – not a major danger but hairy dogs in particular are prone to getting ice stuck between their toes and this can lead to bruising and pain if left to accumulate.
Cold – most dogs are well insulated so the cold isn’t too much of a problem but for short haired dogs and those not used to this kind of weather it can be more of a problem. There are lots of winter accessories available for dogs including coats and mitts and these are worth considering if your dog isn’t naturally well equipped for this kind of weather. At night make sure your dog has plenty of bedding to snuggle into as even if they are in the house temperatures can drop pretty low at night. For dogs living outside warm bedding is obviously even more crucial, and deep piles of fresh straw are one of the best insulating beddings. Only dogs who are used to living out should be left outside in this kind of weather, and even for these hardy animals it’s worth considering if they would be more comfortable inside (although surprisingly many outdoor dogs actually prefer being in their cosy kennel to being in the house).