5 Winter Health Hazards for Dogs

Now that’s it’s officially winter, make sure you’re well aware of these season-specific health concerns for dogs.

A wintry dog with snow on his face.
A wintry dog with snow on his face. Photography ©GROMOV | Getty Images.

Cold temperatures not only bring in snow but these special health concerns. Don’t freeze up — stay on top of the following issues:

1. Below freezing temps

Do you have a snow puppy? Take a video of him playing in the snow. Photography ©DavidClarine Getty Images.
Below freezing temperatures and dogs don’t mix. Photography ©DavidClarine Getty Images.

If temperatures drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, all dogs are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite, but some dogs — including small dogs, young dogs, old dog and those with thin coats — can experience issues starting at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. If your dog is shivering or showing other signs of being too cold, head inside. Never leave your dog outside alone in cold temperatures.

2. Frostbite

Frostbite can occur when your dog is outside for extended periods of time in freezing temperatures. In dogs, frostbite is most commonly seen on the paws, ears and tail. Some signs of frostbite include pain, skin discoloration and swelling. If you suspect frostbite, wrap your dog in warm (not hot) blankets and get him to a veterinarian immediately. Do not massage the area.

3. Hypothermia

Hypothermia occurs when a dog’s body temperature drops too low. Signs of hypothermia include shivering, weakness, unresponsiveness and slow, shallow breathing. If you suspect hypothermia, slowly wrap your dog in warm (not hot) blankets and rush him to a veterinarian.

4. Frozen bodies of water

Never let your dog run or play on frozen ponds, lakes or rivers. You don’t know if the ice will support his weight, so don’t risk it! Keep dogs on leash in any areas with frozen water.

5. Ice melt toxicity

Chemicals used to melt snow and ice on driveways and walkways can be dangerous if your dog ingests them or even just walks on them. Some signs of ice melt toxicity due to ingestion include vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, confusion, staggering and seizures. On the skin, ice melts can cause irritation, burning and cracking. To protect your dog, avoid places known to use ice melts, use booties for walks, or wash your dog’s paws after walks, and don’t let your dog eat snow, or lick ice or slush.

6. Antifreeze

Just a few licks of antifreeze can be fatal to a small dog. Some signs of antifreeze poisoning include “drunken” behavior, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, seizures and fainting. If you use antifreeze products in or around your home, make sure your dog can’t access them.

Thumbnail: Photography ©GROMOV | Getty Images.

About the author

Jackie Brown is a freelance writer from Southern California who specializes in the pet industry. Reach her at jackiebrownwriter.wordpress.com.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Dogster magazine. Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Dogster magazine delivered straight to you!

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5 thoughts on “5 Winter Health Hazards for Dogs”

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