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Winter Safety Tips for Your Canine Companion

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As you navigate the slippery sidewalks outside this winter, members of the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association (WVMA), want you to be aware of the dangers associated with commonly used sidewalk salt.dog in snow

"Sidewalk salt/deicers can often be a hazard to dogs for several reasons. The most commonly used deicer is rock salt, Sodium Chloride, because it is inexpensive and effective at melting ice on sidewalks," says WVMA Member, Dr. Kevin Landorf. "It is dangerous to dogs because it is irritating to their paws, and toxic if ingested."

Salt poisoning can occur from drinking out of puddles where ice has melted, or from chewing on their feet to remove ice or snowballs that contain the substance. Symptoms of poisoning are vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst and urination, depression, lethargy and even seizures or coma with severe intoxication.

If you are looking for a more pet safe deicer, Dr. Landorf recommends using Safe Paw, which doesn't contain salt and is non-toxic and non-irritating for pets.

"Using Safe Paw at your home is a great way to reduce the possibility of toxicity, but other methods are needed when walking down streets or past other homes and businesses," he says. "Make sure your dog is kept on a short lead to prevent licking or eating something off the ground. If your pet has fuzzy feet make sure they are trimmed to prevent the buildup of ice, snow, or salt."

Another safety method to try are booties, which will protect the paw pads. If your dog doesn't care for the booties, be sure to wipe their paws when the walk is done.

Winter dangers include more than just sidewalk salt ingestion. Other dangers include hypothermia, frostbite, dehydration, and antifreeze ingestion.

"Hypothermia occurs most commonly when dogs are walking on thin ice and fall into cold water," says Dr. Landorf. "As they fight to keep warm, they use up energy stores quickly and become very weak from low blood sugar."

To help prevent hypothermia, he recommends testing the thickness of the ice before letting your pet walk on the surface. If your dog loves to swim, be sure to keep them away from open water.

"Most people remember to provide water to their dogs in hot weather, but not always when it is cold. It is relatively easy for a dog to become dehydrated if they are playing outside in freezing weather for an extended time," Dr. Landorf says. "Be certain to make sure they are offered water and that it is not frozen."

Even though ingestion can occur throughout the year, Dr. Landorf says there is an increased possibility of poisoning from antifreeze ingestion in the winter months.

"Ethylene glycol, the most common ingredient in antifreeze, has a sweet taste which pets seem to like," he says.
"Unfortunately, it causes crystals to form in the urine damaging the kidneys leading to permanent damage and death if not treated very early."

Keeping your dog safe in the winter months means spending time with them outside and sometimes keeping them on a short leash. If your dog spends a lot of time outside, talk with your veterinarian about increasing their caloric intake to help them maintain body temperature.

Even if your pet regularly spends a lot of time outside, Dr. Landorf recommends never leaving them outside in weather below 20 degrees without shelter like a heated garage or an insulated dog igloo.

"With a little planning and knowledge, it can be very easy to keep our best friends safe during the winter," he says.

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in Companion Animal Hits: 11077
4610 S. Biltmore Lane, Suite 107
Madison, WI 53718
Phone: (608) 257-3665
Fax: (608) 257-8989
Email: wvma@wvma.org

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