Keep Your Dog Safe
I thought winter was over but then we woke up to snow today with more forecast for the weekend. When the temperature drops, it is important to keep our family members warm and cozy. We all need to be aware of common winter threats to pets. Our pet’s safety is our responsibility.
Special thanks to Amber Kingsley for submitting this guest post that summarizes 3 common winter threats to pets. Number 1 surprised me.
Thank you to Amber and to NEO-PAWS™ for the photos
1 – Cold and Heat Loss
Many of us have been told that the majority of body heat escapes from our head. This myth has recently been found to be an “old wives tale”. Old military studies from the 50’s claimed heat loss through our heads accounted for up to 45% of our bodies becoming cold or not retaining heat if not properly insulated. However, according to Livescience and other sources, in updated research, the number is estimated to be closer to 7 or 10% for this type of heat loss. When it comes to dogs, the number may be even smaller.
A significant loss of heat would generally be through bare feet or paws, especially if touching ice and snow.
Certain dog breeds like Alaskan Huskies, Malamutes, and Saint Bernards, have built up extra layers of hair and fur around their feet to protect their paws from the cold and snow. Surprisingly, some tiny terriers also have this kind of protection growing around their feet apparently. Other breeds may benefit from boots or shoes like humans do.
2 – Paws can be poisoned or injured
Other dangers that pets may face during colder winter months can also come from their feet. In the city, they may walk on icy streets and through puddles of antifreeze, salt and other chemicals meant to make the sidewalks safer for humans but highly toxic to dogs if absorbed (it never occurred to me that the salt used could be toxic for Kilo the Pug before hearing about a friend’s dog that got sick).
In parks or more rural environments, they could step on or pick up dirt, mud, ice, rocks and other debris that could be dangerous to their paws. You often can not see sharp objects and danger through the snow.
Whether you’ve taken them for a walk on slick city streets or a romp through the wilderness, especially if they are not wearing boots, always be sure to wash and dry your pet’s feet thoroughly after they return from the cold. Check that their feet are clean with well-trimmed nails that don’t catch on things and free from winter’s threats.
For grooming tips on trimming their nails, read here.
3 – Use Forced Heat Wisely
When your four-legged best friend does come in from the cold and they’re soaking wet, gently dry them with a clean cloth. Be very careful if you decide to use forced heat, like that coming from a blow dryer, which can cause a number of different problems including dry, irritated skin or burnt, blistered paws.
The machines at pet salons, groomers, and other animal care places is slower and cooler than a high-wattage hair dryer meant for humans.
Overall, it’s considered safe to use a blow dryer on a pet, as long as you use the lowest possible heat setting available, keep the nozzle at least four inches from their hair or skin and keep it in constant motion at all times. Our animals aren’t usually aren’t able to tell us that it’s getting too hot for them until they’re in possible danger from receiving a nasty burn.
Roanna designs and manufactures a full line of high quality, innovative, orthopedic and easy-to-use dog apparel products with the animal’s safety, comfort and performance in mind. For more information on protecting your dog and particularly keeping their Paws safe, check out our post on dog shoes and life jackets with Roanna from NEO-PAWS™ International HERE. They design and manufacture a full line of high quality, innovative, orthopedic and easy-to-use products with the animal’s safety, comfort and performance in mind.
Amber lives in Santa Monica, California. She’s a dog-lover, travel junkie, and writer. She’s backpacked all through Europe and South America and her next goal is to conquer Asia and find the perfect cup of coffee!
Hindy Pearson says
Thanks for the tips! As someone who shares their life with an older dog from Florida, I’m super vigilant when it comes to protecting her from the cold. Sweaters in the house 24/7 for a good part of the year, and a coat on top of that when we go outside. I also make sure she’s always warm in the house as well. I wasn’t aware of the damage forced air can do, happy I never used a blow dryer to warm Red up. Thanks for sharing.
Lola The Rescued Cat says
The boots and coats are so cute! I see more ans more dogs wearing boots.
Tenacious Little Terrier says
Sadly, Mr. N is not one of those terriers and gets super cold. He wore boots for most of the snow this year although he may need more hardcore ones next winter if we get more bad weather.
The Daily Pip says
Great tips. I’m pretty careful about cleaning Ruby’s paws after coming in from the cold. We haven’t had much snow this year, but usually there’s lots of chemicals used for melting.
I didn’t know about #1 either. I know there are times when Ruby’s paws get cold on walks. Fortunately, she is small and we can always pick her up and carry her home.
Such an important article!! Yes, we should be aware of the temperature and safety. Great snow shoes here I come!
These are great tips and definitely important to be cautious of what our dogs paws come ninth contact with. I used to have a poodle/bichon mix that loved a blow dry and I made sure to use the cool setting on a low speed.
Cathy Armato says
I’m so surprised about people not losing most of the hear through their heads, I’m not sure I believe that. If I don’t wear a hat, I Freeze! I’m not surprised about dogs though, their paws are definitely at risk in Winter. Thanks for sharing these helpful tips!
Love & Biscuits,
Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them
Talent Hounds says
You still would lose a lot of heat if your head was the only part of your body exposed so you are very wise to wear at hat.
Joely Smith says
Very helpful tips! I agree we need to be really careful about puppy paws! Even in the Summer months dogs can pick up spores from mushroom growing wild if walked in the country. My uncle lost a dog due to the pup licking spores off his paws.
We have to be very careful about using a blow dryer on our Lyla since she already has dry itchy skin. Everything you said is so true!
Great for pet people to know!
Karen Harrison says
I wish more dogs would wear the little boots. My dogs and many of my dogwalking clients won’t keep the little boots on, so I wipe paws when we come in. Salt and other irritants on the pavement can be really rough on paws. Thanks for sharing! Don’t know if I agree with those above that said not much heat escapes through our heads. When I’m dog walking, I always wear a hat, and it helps keep me much warmer than going without.
Talent Hounds says
For sure, you would lose heat through your head, especially if it was the only part of your body that was exposed. It just isn’t as dramatic versus other parts of the body exposed as once thought. The face, head, and chest are also sensitive to changes in temperature, making it feel as if covering them up does more to prevent heat loss. Definitely important to protect your head in frigid temperatures. My ears get cold so a hat really helps.
Kitty Cat Chronicles says
Great advice here! I was definitely surprised to hear that the info about most heat leaving through our heads is a myth! Thankfully it never gets too cold here. I have used a blow dryer on my dog before though because she is always cold after baths. I’ll definitely be sure to be careful with that though!
Tonya Wilhelm says
Really nice tips. We are a sweater, jacket, and boot family. I sure am ready to break out the summer gear! Sorry, not a big winter fan. 😉
Sarcastic Dog says
These are great tips. We had a scare this winter when the HOA temporarily switched ice melters and several of the dogs in the neighborhood, including all three of mine, ended up with sore paws from the chemicals. Thankfully, as soon as the HOA heard about the problem, they immediately switched back to a pet-friendly ice-melter.
Sweet Purrfections says
I didn’t think about poisons getting on the paws. Stay safe and warm during this next cold wave that is hitting.
Our forecast is looking pretty wintery too! We are supposed to get lots of snow this week. Oh well, at least I’m used to long Michigan winters. These are great points! We have to be careful to help our pets stay warm and safe during cold, icy conditions. As if the cold weren’t troublesome enough, those chemical ice melts can really be dangerous!
Beth Patterson says
I’ve read so much about the need for dog boots and also the opposite. We don’t use them, but our dogs aren’t outside for very long, and they stay in the backyard during the winter. If we were out and about, I would make them wear boots. I used to think that letting my Maltese have longer hair in the winter would help keep her warm. The groomer said that it the opposite was happening. She would be colder because the long hair would draw up more moisture and cause her to be chilled. It would also take her longer to warm up. She’s never had hair down to the ground, but now I keep it short year round. (Although it is longer during the winter.)
Jenna Hughson says
Great tips, and great post!! Thanks!