I asked my techs what they thought would be a good topic for our January discussion. One recommended talking about January. Winter. The cold, the ice, the snow...and the issues we see this time of year.
Basically, what January comes down to for Bayfield Animal Hospital is an increase in paw pad injuries. January is cold. We get more snow. With warm daytime temperatures, sometimes we get some melting and then an icy layer. Pups are excited about the cooler weather, people get out and snow shoe and cross country ski.
Unfortunately, what we see a lot of in the clinic are limping dogs from paw pad injuries - cuts on the ice or even frostbite! Sometimes, we see torn toenails from tearing around in the winter wonderland. So, before you head out on a nice snowshoe trip, take a look at a few tips to make it safe for Fido too!
Winter Pet Safety Tips
1. If it's too cold for you, it's too cold for Fido. Dogs and cats can get frostbite and hypothermia too. A good rule of thumb is, if it's too cold for you to enjoy being outside, it's too cold for your pet. Bring them into a well insulated kennel or the garage for the night, and avoid long hikes. Also, make sure they have access to fresh, unfrozen water!
2. Prevent the snowballs on paws and feathers. Snowballs have to be the most frustrating part about winter for my dog, Gordy. They gather between his toes and on his hind end, and are very uncomfortable. We prevent snowballs by having his groomer shave his feet through the winter to remove as much extra hair as possible. I also apply a LOT of Vaseline to his feet (between his toes) before we hike and I spray his back end and belly with Pam Cooking Spray. For paw pads, Musher's Secret and sled dog booties also work weel. He thinks I'm crazy, but so far it's worked well! Remember, salt on sidewalks can be very irritating to sensitive feet too!
3. Watch out for the deep snow! Bounding through deep snow is my dog's favorite thing about winter. However, I try to keep it to a minimum as much as I can, because dogs can tear ACL's and have other orthopedic injuries in the deep snow. Make sure that if your dog starts to look tired, you bring him back onto the trail for a rest.
4. If you're going for a long hike, bring a winter doggie first aid kit! We'll talk about first aid kits more in the spring, but in the winter, always make sure you've got a bag with the following for your pet:
- Fresh water (just like in humans, eating snow doesn't count as re-hydration after a long hike!)
- Nail clippers
- Bandage material. Even a roll of gauze and Vet Wrap (available at any farm supply store) can go a long way in a pinch. Just be VERY careful not to wrap too tight, and make sure you get to a vet's office as soon as you're off the mountain! A too-tight bandage can result in tissue death, infection and in very bad cases, surgery.
- A snack. It's always a good idea to have a ziplock baggie with a lunch for Fido, or some snacks to re-energize while running through the snow. Plus, just like for us, if you get caught unexpectedly in the backcountry overnight, your pup has the energy he needs to make it through the night!