A fresh snowfall is a great excuse to take the day off work or school to play with your dogs in snow. There are a ton of fun dog games you and your pup can play to help stay warm and make the most of a snow day. But before you enjoy these winter activities for dogs, there are certain precautions you should take to ensure the safety of your pup. The last place you probably want to spend your snow day at your veterinarian’s office, so here are some winter pet safety tips that keep the fun going without putting your dog at risk for injury.
How to Enjoy a Snow Day With Your Pup
Play Dog Games in the Snow
If your dog loves to play fetch, then he may enjoy the added challenge of playing it in the snow. High-intensity dog games and winter activities for dogs—like running after or digging up toys—can help keep your dog warm for optimal winter pet safety. You can also hide treats for your dog to dig up in the snow. If your pup isn’t interested in searching or digging, shovel a maze through your yard and drop treats randomly on the path to encourage your dog to explore.
Protect Those Paws
“Foot injuries during the snowy months are the most common reason owners bring their pets into the hospital,” says Dr. Pete Lands, DVM at Hickory Veterinary Hospital in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. “Rock salts have a tendency to get stuck between dogs’ toes and can lead to dried and cracked skin. We generally treat these injuries by bandaging the feet for a few days, providing anti-inflammatory medication, and resting our pets. These injuries can be prevented by wiping your dog’s feet after a walk or using shoes.”You have a few options for keeping your dog’s paws protected. Dog booties like Ultra Paws are a popular winter pet safety solution. An alternative to boots is Musher’s Secret, a 100% natural wax that’s applied to the paw pads to form a moisturizing barrier between your dog’s paws and the snow and salt.
Know Thy Dog
Some dogs are better suited to cold weather than others. A shorthaired Chihuahua may only be able to stand the snow for 15 minutes, while a double-coated Husky may not want to go inside for hours. Your dog’s size, amount of body fat, coat thickness, age and breed will affect how well they tolerate the cold weather.You should also take extra caution during winter activities for dogs when senior pups are involved, especially those that suffer from arthritis. “Colder weather can also exacerbate arthritis. Older dogs with arthritis should be taken on slow, controlled walks and progress to longer walks. Consult with your family veterinarian about a pain management plan or other exercise techniques if your dog has trouble in cold weather,” says Dr. Lands.When you and your senior dog are done playing in the snow, have him relax in a heated pet bed to help soothe his stiff joints, loosen tight muscles and keep him warm throughout the night.
Just like people, dogs can wear extra layers to stay warm on snow days. “During the fall and winter months, I recommend that my clients keep their pets comfortable in the cold with clothing,” says Dr. Lands. Dogs in snow can wear durable winter coats to keep them warm and dry. A great choice is the Kurgo North Country Dog Coat because it has waterproof exterior and soft, fleece lining, plus it comes in several sizes to fit most dogs.Knit sweaters alone are not suitable for dogs in snow because they absorb cold water and hold moisture close to the skin. However, a dog sweater can be used to add an extra layer of warmth beneath your dog’s winter coat.
Watch for Shivering
Watch your pup for signs that they’re getting too cold during outdoor dog games. “Similar to humans, dogs will shiver and seek warm environments when they are too cold. Some dogs will become lethargic or disinterested in activity. If you notice any of these signs, take your pet indoors immediately,” warns Dr. Lands.Your dog might not show obvious signs while they’re playing, so it’s important to observe their behavior. Keep an eye on your dog and avoid letting them off-leash in open areas where they could get lost without shelter from the cold.
Warm Up Indoors
Whether it’s only been 15 minutes or a few hours and you see your pet shivering, you’ll need to bring them inside and get them warm and dry right away. Use an absorbent towel to remove snow and ice as it melts on their fur. Then blow their fur dry with a pet dryer, as the dampness will make it take longer for them to warm up and get comfortable.
For us, the best part of a snow day is coming inside and warming up with a mug of hot cocoa. For your dog, prepare a soothing bowl of The Honest Kitchen Bone Broth with warm (not hot) water that will help your dog warm up and rehydrate.
Lindsay Pevny is on a mission to gather science-based information on pet care, training and products, and to use her writing to help other dog parents make informed decisions for their four-legged family members. As a pet copywriter, she works with passionate pet business owners to spread the word about their innovative pet products and services. Get to know her doggy muses, Matilda and Cow, on her personal blog, Little Dog Tips.