Are you aware of the many dog winter myths circulating like a winter freeze this time of year? Ah, the perils of winter: snow, slush, sleet, ice, frigid temperatures, and rock-salt laden highways and byways. The human variety can bundle up, slather on some lip balm, protect exposed skin, and venture out into nature’s cold bounty well-prepared.
Protecting our feline and canine family members is our responsibility, so here we dispel winter myths and provide snowball-sized facts to keep pets safe throughout winter’s fury. Some of these tips might even save your dog’s life, so we urge you to share this with any dog friends and family members.
Myth: Unlike summertime where a car acts as a greenhouse and can cause harm and even death to pets, a pet is safer in a car during winter months.
Myth: All ice melts are created equal.
Fact: Not all ice melts are formulated to keep pets safe. Pet-safe ice melts should be salt- and chloride-free, which is safer on pet paws and stomachs. Never use a human grade ice melt, and always sprinkle a “safer than most” ice melt for pets on sidewalks; do not pile product and risk Fido or Fluffy’s health. Keep in mind: There is no such thing as a 100 percent safe ice melt; there are, however, ice melts that are safer to use in the company of pets.
Myth: A dog’s pads protect them from all elements of weather.
Fact: Though a dog’s pads contain much fatty tissue that does not freeze as easily as other tissues, protection against scuffing, scraping, cutting, and ice damage is crucial in winter months. Ice cubes and “snowballing” may occur in the delicate areas between toes and pads. Protective booties or a product like Musher’s Secret, which is used on sledding dogs, can help ease extreme conditions on sensitive pads. I’ve been using it on our dog’s pads year-round, as it helps with the hot pavement and sidewalk issue in the summertime on walks.
Myth: Dogs do not absorb antifreeze or harmful chemicals on walks through their paws.
Fact: A dog’s pads are more resilient than other parts of his body, but chemicals can be absorbed through them. In turn, chemicals like antifreeze can be licked by dogs and cause severe problems. Wipe dog pads off thoroughly after a walk, perhaps using some warm water and a washcloth to melt any ice balls that may have formed on the feet.
Myth: Coats and sweaters are for show and really do not keep pets warm in the winter months since animals have a natural fur coat.
Myth: Dogs should gain weight in the winter to keep their fat ratio up and stay warm.
Fact: Not always. Though dogs are more sedentary in winter months, gaining weight as a form of insulation is not always advised. Indoor dogs who participate in strenuous activities or winter sports may require additional food in colder months. A recent study from the Association for Pet Obesity revealed that 53 percent of cats and 55 percent of dogs are overweight or obese in the United States. Keep a pet’s heart, organs, and joints healthy and keep an eye on their weight year round.
Myth: Thought a humidifier may help people, it does not do much for our pets during winter heating season.
Myth: Fleas will not affect my pet during the winter months.
Fact: Though fleas may not survive in brutal winter temperatures outside, the warmth of home means fleas gravitate towards indoor comfort where they can affect pets. Using a natural, safer product(s) means no chemicals and a safe alternative for pest control and prevention during colder months. Always consult a veterinarian with any questions.
Myth: Tails, fur, and paws are safe from winter heating systems indoors.
Fact: As the temperatures drop, the thermostat rises indoors. The usage of an electric heater or fireplace should be done with caution. Tails, fur and paws that come too close to flames, hot surfaces or the coils of an electric heater can be damaged, and an unattended heater could be knocked over by a curious pet. To make sure your dog is warm indoors, and that fire hazards are diminished, never leave a heater on without someone in attendance.
Myth: The location of a dog’s bed is irrelevant in the winter months, as long as the dog is indoors.
Fact: A dog’s bed, kennel or “comfy spot” should be kept away from any drafty areas. Though dogs have a fur coat, cold can and does affect them. If you feel a draft or cold, then chances are your dog is feeling that same cold air. Keep dog beds off of heating vents, but in a spot that keeps them warm and secure.
Myth: Most liquids on frozen winter sidewalks are water or melted snow.
Fact: If dogs have access to the family garage, take a check for any antifreeze containers. Clean up any spills, do not allow pets to have access to any containers that are poisonous, and do not allow pets to lick or step in any puddles near cars while out on walks. Wipe your dog’s feet when returning home from a walk or outside activity. Keeping a washcloth near your exit/entrance is a good idea – dampen it and wash the dog’s paws before entering your house. If a dog licks his or her feet after walking in antifreeze, this is a serious threat.
Myth: There isn’t much to do with a dog in the winter months, since it is so cold outside and play time is limited.
Fact: The snow is falling and the mercury is dropping, but dogs need physical and mental stimulation year-round. With a little ingenuity and a bit of resourcefulness, you can heighten your pet’s sense of winter fun and frivolity with the following tried-and-true indoor festive games.
Hide-and-seek is a perfect year-round game for dogs (and other pets) of all ages. Not only does this game work perfectly on rainy and snowy days, but it heightens a dog’s sense of smell in a fun and rewarding manner. This game requires two people initially. One person stays with the dog in a room while the other hides. When ready to be sought, the “hidee” lets out a sound to initiate the game. As your pooch scours room to room, occasionally let out a verbal signal. Once found, praise him like he just won an Olympic medal and reward with a treat. Repeat. One caveat: be sure to remove any glass or breakables out of the way: this game stirs up a dog’s inner puppy! Our friends at BlogPaws have more tips for keeping fit with your pet throughout the winter months.
Myth: Dogs do not need bathing or grooming in the colder winter months.
Fact: Nails may require more frequent trimming since dogs are spending more time indoor on soft surfaces. Dogs should still be bathed, but ensure that they are dry before venturing outside. Some folks even choose a waterless shampoo for winter grooming needs. A pet’s hair does insulate them, so a longer coat and/or a sweater is a safer bet for many dogs in the cold months.
The bottom line is to use common sense but to ask your dog’s veterinarian and/or seek a credible resource for tips on dog winter care. As an additional safeguard, do not let dogs roam or run freely in the winter snow unless they are familiar with recall on command and/or are in a fenced-in area. Snow can be very disorienting for dogs, and rescue groups report that dogs can be easily confused and get lost when running through snow in the winter months. Better to be safe than sorry.
Do you have any tips for dog winter safety that we missed? We’re all ears in the comments section below.