Just when you started to think the weather was becoming perfect for outdoor excursions with your dog, the “mini beast from the east” came barging in. It has brought huge areas of England and Scotland back to wintry conditions over the weekend.
“There are some very strong winds, meaning it could feel as low as -7°C or -8°C for some people,” warned meteorologist Alex Burkhill.
In such “bitterly cold” conditions, with snowfall potentially reaching twenty-five centimetres, the gritters will be out to keep the roads clear. Whilst that’s good news for the general public, it’s something that all dog owners should beware of.
Getting a Grip on Grit
A now-viral Facebook post by a dog owner revealed the danger of walking dogs on gritted areas.
“Everyone while walking their dogs in the snow should just be aware that the grit used to melt the snow is also very toxic to dogs,” Facebook user Peter MaCann shared. “If they walk on it, then it can burn the skin on their paws and cause serious amounts of pain.”
He also said that he only knew about the dangers of grit on dog paws after he took his pooch outdoors for toilet. His pet squealed from the pain of inflamed paws, prompting MaCann to carry his dog all the way indoors.
“If anyone’s heard of the salt and ice challenge, they will understand how the chemical reaction works on bare skin,” he said further. “Also, if a dog tries to lick their paw clean, this can cause poisoning due to the de-icing chemicals within the grit.”
What Animal Advocates Say
The RSPCA has released a statement warning all pet owners of the harm that grit causes on animals.
“Grit may cause pain or irritation in your pets’ paws, especially if it becomes compacted with snow,” a spokesperson said in an interview. “The salt content in grit can also make it hazardous to pets if they ingest it.”
“If ingested, it can cause vomiting and lethargy, and in severe cases there’s also a risk of kidney damage,” the representative explained further. “Most cases involve animals that have walked through gritted snow and then lick or chew it off their paws as it can cause irritation.”
Both the Dog’s Trust and the RSPCA have issued advice on how to care for pets during snowy weather.
Snowy Weather Pet Care Advice
If it’s too cold for you outdoors, it’s also too chilly for your pooch. But when you do walk your dog outside, observe these 5 tips (based on advice from RSPCA and Dog’s Trust):
- Avoid walking your dog on gritted areas.
- Keep your pooch on a lead if snowfall is heavy to prevent him from getting lost.
- Wash the paws, legs, and tummy of your dog with warm water after a stroll in the snow to take out grit or compacted snow. Dry the washed parts completely.
- If you believe that your pet has ingested rock salt, contact a veterinarian as soon as possible. In cases of suspected poisoning, avoid the ‘watch and wait’ option.
- Invest in some doggy boots to protect your dog’s paws. (This might take some training for your dog to get used to it, so please be prepared and train your dog to wear the boots before the snow falls.)
Even though wintry conditions continue to prevail, keep your dog from trudging through iced-over lakes and ponds to avoid accidents. This is especially the case with heavier dog breeds. If your pooch does fall through one, encourage him to swim to you instead of jumping into the water yourself. Call for emergency services right away so he gets immediate treatment.