Colder weather brings ice and snow, both of which can cause falls and injuries. Your dog may seem confident walking during winter, however they can slip and fall just like us, causing injuries, broken limbs or even taking an owner down with them. Whether it’s black ice, hard packed snow, or ice deceptively hidden under a fresh layer of snow, it’s important to take your time when walking your dog and have them under control on leash.
How do I keep my dog warm when walking on cold winter days?
Dog breeds like Huskies and Samoyeds have enough fur to make spending time outside easy, but a lot of dogs don’t have the fur or body fat to keep them warm. Investing in a good coat can help keep your furry friend nice and toasty. Make sure it fits properly, they can crouch down to do their business and it doesn’t make walking difficult or chafe under the legs. With Canadian winters, sometimes one coat is not enough, and this is where having an extra fleece to put on under the coat comes in handy. If the pet supply store doesn’t have one in your dog’s size, try getting a sweatshirt that fits your dog at a second hand clothing store.
I’m worried that the ice will hurt my dog’s paws. What should I do?
Watch out for walking your dog on sharp ice. It may seem crunchy to us, but shards of ice can sometimes slice a dog’s foot pads, requiring a visit to the vet to bandage the area. Your best option is to avoid icy areas altogether but we know that this isn’t always possible. Winter booties can help prevent injury to your dog’s feet and there are a few options available such as cloth or balloon booties. Since you’re putting them on your dog, you’ll quickly find out which type is easiest for you and what your dog will tolerate.
If booties are impossible to put on your dog, but he lifts his feet in pain when walking outside, you can purchase pet friendly protective wax to put on his foot pads. This will protect your dog’s feet from painful salt and ice. Make sure you buy a non-toxic product from your pet supply store because dogs sometimes lick their feet after going outside during winter. Another good idea is to bring a washcloth with you to wipe your dog’s feet as you go. We also recommend that you have a towel available when you come indoors to give your dog’s feet a good wipe to clear away any packed snow and debris. If you live in a neighbourhood that uses a lot of salt and sand, it may make sense to wash your dog’s feet during and after walks to ensure all the painful debris has been removed.
How to I prevent my dog (and myself) from slipping and injury?
Booties are also an option for helping your dog gain more traction and protection from salt and ice, however just like our boots, they’re not perfect. Watching where you’re both walking, going slow and taking breaks are all good ideas. If your dog is high energy work on training your dog to walk slow and calmly inside and invest in cleats for your own boots to avoid being taken down with a rambunctious dog.
My senior dog can no longer keep up, should we stop walking?
For seniors, the days of going for long hikes or following along while an owner cross-country skis may be behind him, but he can get a lot out of a walk around the block or to the end of the street to help stimulate his mind and get those joints moving. If your dog is a senior, don’t overdo the walks. Walking in snow causes resistance which can be a good exercise for young healthy dogs but can be difficult for seniors. Talk to a veterinarian before walking your senior dog or puppy through snow drifts to see if this is a good method of exercising your dog.
Remember that you don’t have to go outside for a long walk with your senior dog. Just 10 minutes can be more than enough to get the blood pumping. And don’t forget to make sure both you and your dog are properly dressed and you’re both safe when walking outside this winter. When your dog starts shivering or lifting his legs, it’s time to go inside.
Should I take precautions when I walk my senior dog in the winter?
Be aware of any signs of pain to prevent the possibility of aggravating arthritis or an existing injury. If your dog isn’t normally steady on his feet, the use of a mobility harness or a sling to help support their back end can make going outside easier for both of you.
If you feel your senior dog is experiencing pain from arthritis, old age or injury, contact us to find out if pain management control or physical rehabilitation is right for your dog. Anti-inflammatories, supplements or pain control or targeted exercises may be something that can help your dog gain confidence and stay mobile. Just as humans age and require assistance to help stay active, so do our pets.
Don’t let winter keep your dog indoors. Let us find a solution that will keep you and your walking buddy active this winter.
If you can’t get outside, contact us for more information about specific exercises you can do indoors with your dog.
Contact Caledon Vaughan Veterinary House Call Services with any questions you have about keeping your dog mobile this winter.
Author: Meaghan Michaud, RVT