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Tips for Living Well with Your Dog



Your pet needs help coping with snow, cold


Last of a six-part series
Like most dogs, my English Setter always delights at the sight of snowfall because a fresh blanket of white always makes that run in the park a little more exciting.

But my loyal companion's puppy-like frolicking soon turns into discomfort as the fluffy snow melts against her warm feet, forming sharp nickel-size ice clumps that pack between her toes on the top of her foot and the pads on the bottom.


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The prancing suddenly stops, and she lifts her foot in discomfort from the cold and the pinching of the ice between her toes. Ouch!


And as quickly as I remove the encrusted ice, my pal is again running through the snow - until another ice clump forms.


Like children, most dogs easily forget that a fun and beautiful winter day also can pose great danger without proper precautions. So pet parents must guide their pals through the season's cold and snow.


Consider these ways to make winter more tolerable and safe:

  • Modify the exercise routine. The weather outside may be frightful, but your dog still needs daily exercise. Instead of that long walk, go on several shorter walks of 15 minutes. This will help prevent your pal from getting frostbite on his nose and foot pads. Try a walk in the neighborhood and then hop in the car and drive to a different location for another short walk. The drive will allow you and your dog to warm up. Consider going to a third location if you have a young, energetic pooch.
  • Be creative about daily exercise. Give your pal an indoor workout by playing fetch with a ball or toy inside the house. This can help with winter boredom, but it is still no substitute for walks in the park. Many pet stores and large shopping malls welcome dogs as a way of enticing you to shop. So take your pal along with you when it is time to replenish your pet supplies and walk around the store or mall until his heart is content.
  • Consider using a sweater, especially for puppies, short-haired and elderly dogs. The best sweaters are the ones that wrap around the trunk and have adjustable Velcro closures. This allows you to adjust the sweater to make your pal comfortable. The correct fit is essential. A sweater that is too tight can hinder a dog's ability to move freely and may result in injury from improper walking form; one too loose can pose a tripping hazard or get stuck on an object such as a tree branch, again resulting in injury.
  • Remember that winter poses special safety problems. Most dogs should be kept on a leash. Dogs can easily become disoriented and get lost because snow cover dulls their sense of smell. Older dogs are susceptible to slipping on ice and snow, and a fall can easily cause serious injury. And playful puppies and young dogs are at greater risk of being hit by a vehicle because high snow banks mean reduced visibility for drivers. Also, many dogs like to eat snow. This might be all right after a pristine blanket of white, but snow quickly loses its freshness. An easy way for a dog to get sick is to eat old, dirty and bacteria-laden snow.
  • Clear the snow from an area of the yard. Snow hinders a dog's sense of smell, so clear a section down to the grass. This will allow your pal to sniff away and give him that needed aroma to encourage him do his duty.
Lastly, keep your dog's feet clean. Bring a clean rag or towel along during walks. Wipe your pal's paws at the first sign of ice build-up, because encrusted snow can cause foot pads to crack and bleed. And if your dog walks through an area with salt and chemicals, wipe his feet to avoid irritation of the foot pads.

Always clean your dog's feet with a warm, damp towel when when coming inside after a walk. Dog's like to lick at their paws to clean themselves, so make sure no salt or chemical residue is on them. Some products used to melt snow and ice are potentially poisonous if ingested.

Most dogs are more energetic in cold temperatures, because they have no concern about overheating. But like excited children, they have a tendency to overdo it. They want to keep playing outside even though the cold and snow may pose dangers.



Our loyal companions need us to keep them in step by setting limits and planning appropriate activities so winter remains a wonderland of fun.