Brrr. Even if you live in balmier states such as Florida and California, the temperatures in the winter months dip. In some parts of the country, they can be downright freezing! Here are some health hazards for your dog in winter.
If the temperatures dip below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, your dog could be susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite occurs when blood vessels near the skin constrict, reduce blood flow to certain areas of the body, causing those tissues to freeze. Some signs of frostbite in dogs include:
- Discoloration of the skin – becomes bluish, pale or gray
- Brittleness to the area when touched
- Pain when you touch the body part
- Blisters or skin ulcers
- Blackened or dead skin
Signs of frostbite may take several days to appear, especially if the affected area is small or non-weight bearing (such as the tip of the tail or ears). Dogs with diabetes or heart disease may be even more susceptible to frostbite. If you suspect your dog is suffering from frostbite, take him to the veterinarian immediately. Your vet may have to give your dog pain medication for the thawing tissues and antibiotics to prevent bacterial skin infections.
A dog’s normal body temperature is 101 to 102.5. When hypothermia sets in, a dog’s body temperature falls to 95 degrees.
Symptoms of hypothermia include:
- Sleepiness or weakness
- Skin is cold to the touch
- Decreased heart rate
- Dilated pupils
- Shivering & trembling
If your dog’s temperature falls below 98°F (36.7°C), take him to the vet or emergency care center immediately. In the meantime, wrap your dog in a warm towel or a warm water bottle wrapped in a towel.
Too often you read stories where dogs have fallen into semi-frozen lakes. Never let your dog run near icy lakes or rivers, as it may not be able to support its weight.
If you have snow or ice on your driveway or walkway, you may put salt or other chemicals to make it safer to walk. However, these chemicals can be dangerous if your dog ingests them or even just walks on them. If you notice your dog has vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, confusion, staggering and seizures, it may be from ice melt toxicity. If these chemicals get on their skin, it can cause irritation, burning and cracking. To protect your dog, use booties for walks, or wash your dog’s paws after walks, and don’t let your dog eat snow.
Antifreeze can be toxic to dogs. Some signs of antifreeze poisoning include “drunken” behavior, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, seizures and fainting. Keep all antifreeze products out of the reach of your dog.