While out walking dogs, twice in a short span of time I’ve encountered dog tracks and blood on snowy trails in the foothills close to town.
The first time we were about halfway done with a five-mile loop when we heard a commotion ahead. Two separate groups of dogs had met up and were all barking excitedly as their owners tried to separate them and continue on their hikes.
As we came closer, we noticed red splotches in the snow; and our suspicions were soon confirmed by one of the owners, who admitted it was blood from one of her dogs. This poor Labrador retriever was hopping on three legs, holding his bent front paw up. He was hurt and bleeding, with at least two miles to go on rough, snow-covered trails before his paw could be treated.
The second instance was on a nice snowy trail in a different area. This time we didn’t see any dogs, but found more blood and canine paw prints. I felt so sorry for the dog, and hoped he didn’t have far to travel before he could be attended to.
It made me wonder about the times I take my own dogs out for a romp in the hills, or even around the neighborhood. As a professional dog walker, both I and the dogs love getting out, but when we hit snow and ice, I don’t always think about their paws, since neither of them complains. I did some research on dangers to dogs during walks, and here’s what I found. There are several cold-weather hazards that can hurt your canine or his paws during a walk or hike.
Road Salt and Chemicals. You might appreciate cleared off sidewalks after a snowfall, but as you’re walking your dog on them, be mindful of any remnants of de-icing products scattered about. Rock salt or pellets made of calcium chloride can cause problems. They work by creating heat, up to 175 degrees, to melt ice, and it is easy for these chemicals to mix in with packed snow on your dog’s paws. If your pet starts licking and chewing to get the ice out of her paws these chemicals could burn her feet, her mouth, and, if swallowed, even cause ulcers in her digestive system. When you return from your walk, wash off your dog’s paws to keep her healthy and comfortable. Here is a short explanation of how these chemicals can harm your canine.
Hidden Ground Hazards. A blanket of snow looks nice but it might be covering hazards like sharp rocks, broken glass, and jagged metal. Any of these could shred your pup’s paws, causing damage. Be careful taking your dog off of sidewalks and established trails and keep an eye on him if he’s off leash in an area that allows it.
Snow and Ice In Paws. This might have been the cause of the blood spatters we saw on the trails. Much of the snow was soft, and probably easily picked up by the hair between the dog’s toes. As the dog continued to bounce around, more snow impacted and stuck on her feet, creating hard icy pieces that could have cut the paw.
Frostbite. Extreme cold temperatures can result in frostbite, often on the tips of ears and tails, as well as paws. If you have to take your dog out during subfreezing weather, try to limit outdoor exposure. You can also put a warm jacket on your pet, and some dogs tolerate booties for their feet. If you suspect your dog may have some frostbitten areas, call your veterinarian as soon as possible to have her checked out.
Antifreeze. You might be very conscientious about keeping poisons like this out of reach of your dog or cat, but during your walks you might encounter leakage from parked cars. Even a little bit of antifreeze can cause severe illness or death for your pet, so don’t let your dog near any suspicious fluids on the ground.
These are just a few tips to help protect your dog from dangers during winter weather dog walks, and this WebMD site has more information on winter safety for your pets. With a few simple precautions, you and your dog can still enjoy fun, safe dog walks during cold and snowy weather.