Taking Your Pet Out in the Snow

dog running in the snow

When the white stuff starts to come down, people tend to fall in to one of two categories. They either hate it and want to avoid going out in it at all costs, or their inner toddler comes out and they can’t wait to pull on their boots and head out to play. Domestic animals can have the same attitudes, and while some may love the opportunity to venture out into the cold, others will prefer to stay cosy indoors. Whether out of necessity or simply for fun, if you do need to take your pet out in the snow, here is everything you need to know.

Snow introduction

If it is your pet’s first time in the snow, it is understandable that he is a little hesitant. After all, he doesn’t understand why this white stuff is so wet and cold, and why it falls away under his feet. Some owners mistakenly believe that pushing their animal to accept the snow is the best way to get them used to it quickly, but you could actually be doing more harm than good. If your pet has been out in the snow before, and is really not keen on being out in it, try and keep any trips outside short and sweet.

Be paw-pared

Your dog’s paws have some natural protection against the snow, but they are still not designed to spend large amounts of time out in the white stuff. Snow can easily compact between the pads on each paw, forming lumps of ice that can cause chilblains and even ice burns. Licking his paws after a walk isn’t a good idea either, as the salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and protect against slippage can be toxic to animals.

Instead of letting your furbaby roam out in the snow in her bare paws, invest in a pair of waterproof pet booties from your local pet store.

Time for a hair cut

While long hair may help to keep your furry friend warm during the winter, long hair that drags on the underside of his stomach and legs will be likely to pick up chunks of snow, which will quickly turn to ice. Again, this can cause unpleasant problems including ice burns and chilblains, so we strongly recommend you give any of these areas a little trim ahead of taking your pet out in the snow.

Temperature gauge

Animals are a little like humans in that the thinner they are and the less body hair they have, the more likely they are to feel the cold. If you have a pet who is a little underweight, short or fine-haired, and it particularly old or young and thus more vulnerable to the cold, then you will need to keep a much closer eye on his temperature to make sure he doesn’t get too cold.

Vigorous games can help keep your pet’s blood pumping around his body which will ensure that his temperature stays at a reasonable level. Just don’t tire him out so much that he struggles to walk back to your home/vehicle, as he could become chilled once he slows down.

Drying off time

When it is time to come inside, it can be tempting to load your pet up in your car or truck as quickly as possible, or let her run freely into your home. However, it is essential that you dry her off thoroughly so she is not wet, cold and icy for a prolonged period. Keep a few old towels in your trunk or near your back door so that you can rough-dry her, and then encourage her to sit in the warmest part of your home so that she thaws through gradually.

Getting lost is snow joke!

If your area has been hit by deep flurries, any light-colored dog will find that they have instant camouflage skills. This means that you will need to keep an extra close eye on your animal so that she doesn’t become lost outside. When covered with snow, even the most familiar of areas can become confusing for her, so she may find herself disorientated and wandering in the wrong direction. Many owners choose to put a bright colored or reflective collar or jacket on their pet if they are planning on going out in the snow, so that they can be easily spotted, even from a bit of a distance.

Hazard awareness

Snow and ice present a great deal more hazards than ‘ordinary’ weather, and so both you and your pet need to be extra cautious when outside in this type of weather. From slips to tripping over snow-covered objects to dangerously thin ice, there are many ways in which you or your beloved animal could become injured or even put your life in danger. Keep your pet close by, do not let her explore any frozen lakes or streams, and don’t encourage running around in icy areas.

Taking your pet out in the snow doesn’t need to be stressful if you use the tips we have provided above. If you need further advice, contact Flamingo Pet Clinic and speak to our veterinarian.