The nights have drawn in and winter is upon us. Here is some winter safety advice for dog owners to help you keep your dog safe over the winter months.

Exercise

With fewer daylight hours and cold, wet weather you may find that your dog does not get as much exercise as he does in the summer.  It is a good idea to monitor his weight and food intake, as you may need to reduce the amount of food you give your dog, to stop him putting on weight over the winter.  If you are walking in low light or darkness consider a fluorescent jacket and/or collar.  You could also attach a flashing light to your dog’s collar to make him easier to spot.  Ensure he is wearing an identification disc and we strongly recommend a microchip (with up to date contact details) to increase the chances of being reunited should your dog go missing.

Ice and snow

If we get a cold snap it is great fun to get out and about with your dog.  Keep a regular check on your dog’s paws as ice and snow can ball up in the space between toes.  Salt and other chemicals used to grit roads and pavements can be irritant to your dog’s pads (especially if they have any small abrasions), so we would advise wiping your dog’s paws with a cloth and warm water when you get home.

Dog coats

Slim dogs with a short hair coat (such as greyhounds or Chihuahuas) can feel the cold and you may find that as your dog gets older he starts to feel the cold more.  Most dogs will be fine without a coat while exercising, but if you are spending a long period of time outside (and standing still) you should consider a coat for your dog.  Some breeds of dog are well suited to cold environments (Alaskan malamute, St Bernard) and these dogs are unlikely to need a coat, in fact may well be quite uncomfortable with one on.

Ethylene Glycol (Antifreeze) Poisoning

The worst of all the wintertime chemical spills is antifreeze, which can leak from a car’s radiator. Ethylene glycol ingestion is very dangerous. It is sweet tasting and very palatable and even a relatively small quantity can cause serious kidney damage and be fatal. The first signs of intoxication can be that your dog appears ‘drunk’.  If you know your dog has ingested ethylene glycol or you have any concerns, contact your vet without delay.  The prognosis becomes less good the longer the delay between ingestion of the anti freeze and initiation of treatment.

Houseplants

The poinsettia plant’s brightly coloured leaves contain an irritant sap.  The plant is poisonous if ingested in large quantities but it is unlikely your dog would ingest enough of the plant because of the taste and irritation from the sap.  To be on the safe side though, keep them out of your dogs reach. Holly and mistletoe plants, along with their berries, are toxic to dogs. Symptoms of illness from ingesting these plants include intestinal upset, such as vomiting and diarrhoea, excessive drooling, and abdominal pain. Daffodils are also toxic to both dogs and cats, especially the bulbs.