Winter Safety Tips for Main Line Dogs & Their Parents

Photo of a dog being held by owner on a Winter day

4 Winter Weather Risks & Safety Tips for Protecting Your Best Bud Against Them

The snowy, slushy, icy, and sometimes bitterly cold conditions of a winter on the Main Line can be as unpleasant and hazardous for your four-legged friend as they are for you. So, before the weather turns too frightful, your friends at Wagsworth wanted to share some of the seasonal risks to your dog and tips on how to protect your pup against them. We hope this information helps make wintertime safer and, ultimately, more fun for both you and your pup.

Tip #1: Did you know dogs can get frostbite?

Once temps drop below freezing, your pup (and you) are at risk for frostbite. According to the American Kennel Club, a dog’s tail, ears, nose, and paws are especially susceptible to this painful issue because these are the body parts that are farthest away from the heart. While puppies, senior pooches, and small, short-haired dogs are at the biggest risk for developing frostbite, even cold-weather lovers, like Huskies and Malamutes, can suffer if exposed to cold temperatures for too long. If you think your dog may have frostbite or was out in the cold too long, consult your vet right away.

Protect Your Pup: Even in the throes of winter, it is essential for your dog’s happiness and well-being to get outside. Actually, a bit of fresh air may do you both a lot of good, physically and mentally. When you head out in the cold or snow with your pup, and especially if temps have dropped below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, it is very important to keep a close eye on your fur-baby for any behavioral changes that might indicate it’s time to head back indoors. Some of these signs include shivering, acting anxious, whining, slowing down, or holding up one or more paws. However, we have a feeling you’ll be the one ready to call it quits before they are!

Tip #2: Did you know dogs’ paws often get dry and cracked in the winter?

Even though a dog’s foot pads are designed for all kinds of terrain and conditions, winter can be very harsh on them. Freezing-cold sidewalks, and the sand, salt, and ice melt chemicals they are often covered in, can cause trouble for even the toughest paws. In addition, while a snowy-day stroll may double the fun for you and your pup, it can also add to your dog’s paw agony. Snow can get stuck in the hair under and around your dog’s paw pads, which typically causes a great deal of irritation and stinging. If your dog exhibits lameness or constant licking or chewing, or if there are any changes in their pad appearance, it’s time to see your vet.

Protect Your Pup: When you and your best friend go out walking this winter, consider bringing along a towel so you can frequently wipe off their paws. While you don’t necessarily need a towel made especially for your pooch, veterinarians do say there are benefits to using something specially made for dogs rather than a sheet or towel made for us humans. Post-walk, take a moment to check your dog’s paws for any signs of cracking or any redness between the toes, and remove any snow, ice, or salt you find there to prevent future paw issues. If you already know your dog doesn’t love the cold or has sensitive paw pads, you may want to try putting them in dog booties or applying a petroleum jelly or other paw protectant, like Musher’s Secret, on their feet before you brave the outside together.

Tip #3: Did you know a slip and fall on ice is as scary for a dog as it is for a person?

You may think that having four legs is an advantage when navigating an icy sidewalk or stairs, but your dog would beg to differ. Icy steps and sidewalks are just as dangerous for dogs as they are for humans, and the result of a fall can be very similar, from bumps and bruises to broken bones and ligament tears. If your dog already has mobility issues or arthritis, they may be at an even higher risk of losing their footing on the ice and sustaining injuries. Call your veterinarian immediately if your dog takes a spill and exhibits any signs of injury such as whining or limping.

Protect Your Pup: Priority No. 1 should be clearing an ice-free path for your dog to get outside and do their business. It’s not always so easy to get rid of the ice safely and completely, even when you use pet-friendly ice melt such as Safe Paw, but your dog will be forever grateful if you do. If you and your dog are up for venturing beyond your yard on an icy day, then dog trainers recommend moving at a slow and steady pace and walking close to each other’s side for added support. Dog booties may help your pup walk across the snow and ice with more ease, and keeping nails trimmed may improve your dog’s contact with the ground and control when on ice.

Tip #4: Did you know that chemicals hazardous to your dog are often used to combat wintry weather?

Spreading ice melt around a driveway or walkway may help prevent a human or dog from slipping and falling. However, if you don’t use a pet-friendly version and follow the instructions carefully, it may also cause some issues for your pup, like skin irritations or stomach illness. In addition, antifreeze, which often leaks from cars in the wintertime, leaving poisonous puddles in many driveways, is a sweet-tasting but highly toxic liquid for dogs. Whether a pup laps it up from a puddle directly or licks it off their paws later, ingesting antifreeze can be deadly. If your dog develops any symptoms of chemical or antifreeze poisoning, such as muscle twitching, vomiting, confusion, or seizure, act fast and contact your local emergency animal clinic.

Protect Your Pup: If you needed another good reason to try Musher’s Secret or dog booties, here it is. Both types of paw coverings can be highly effective in reducing the amount of chemicals that stick to your dog’s feet and fur. But even if you use one of these types of barriers on your dog’s paws, you should also always wipe them down when you return from a walk. In addition, try to avoid areas where you know ice melt chemicals may have been used and keep your dog away from any suspicious puddles in driveways or garages. You can also do your part to keep your pup and other neighborhood pets safe by using nontoxic deicing products that are gentle on paws, storing chemicals and antifreeze safely away in sealed containers, and immediately cleaning up any spills.

Wagsworth Is a Warm, Welcoming, and Safe Winter Getaway for Your Dog

Even the most Zen dog (and their pet parent) may go stir-crazy if confined to the indoors for extended periods of time during the winter. If you want to make sure your pup gets plenty of body and brain stimulation all season long, you may want to sign them up for Wagsworth’s day camp or board them with us over a winter vacation week. No matter if your dog is frolicking outside or inside, our highly trained staff will always keep a close eye on them and their specific needs and personal well-being.

We have plenty of climate-controlled indoor play spaces, where your dog can comfortably enjoy either group fun or private time. In addition, all year round, we take our guests outside into the expansive play yard as much as possible, as we have found it beneficial to each pup’s mental and physical health. Our knowledgeable staff monitors each guest’s cold-weather comfort and follows special winter protocols to ensure maximum fun and safety.

We know your dog is going to love playing in the snow piles and digging “igloos” with their furry friends, so if you want to pack a jacket or sweater for your dog, our staff will be happy to put it on them.