Digging out from the storm: Keep your dog safe

December 9, 2009 at 8:45 pm Leave a comment

blizzard 001 (2)Today much of the country woke up to the sight of a stunningly beautiful winter morning. Lots of people aren’t going to work today, much less to dog parks. This monster storm has dropped a ton of the white stuff. Here in Madison, I hear our unofficial total –  so far –  is 17 inches, which is a lot for us, and nothing for folks in Colorado who measure their snowfall in feet.

This morning Dodger flew out to do his business. The snow didn’t stop him from running even when it was almost to his belly. Ginger, weighing in at 21 pounds and having short little legs, stopped at the sight of it and refused to go out at first. Even at 13 1/2, she still has a bionic bladder. She ate breakfast and then forged her way outside (she has her priorities).

With little dogs, or big dogs with short legs, it’s helpful to shovel out a trail or an area right where they go outside. I shoveled an area for her at the bottom of the steps so she can find some space to walk in and not sink.

Getting all the snow removed is important today because tomorrow we are going to have bitter cold temperatures.  Any place that still has a thin layer of snow will then have glare ice, making it likely that a dog imitate Bambi on the ice — but rather than have fun will get hurt from the sliding and slipping. While it’s a pain to shovel it all, it’s a safety issue for the dogs as well as yourself. Many of my falls that end up in trips to the physical therapist (who once said to me, “I’m sorry your dogs keep hurting you”) are from being outside with the dogs in wet, snowy or icy conditions.

Last year I had good luck using two different pet-friendly ice melters: Safe Paw and Earth Friendly Products Ice Melt (which is also safe for vegetation). Both worked just about as well as salt, and even salt doesn’t work when it gets too cold. Health and safety considerations stipulate that ice melters not designed to be pet friendly can be dangerous, although there aren’t as many emergency cases as you’d think. My dogs were always fine with plain old salt, but I rarely used it and you can’t be certain that your dog won’t react just because he hasn’t reacted before. 

It’s all about how much the dog ingests, and if there is a reaction it can be nasty and warrant a trip to the ER. Those cases can be fatal. It’s best to wipe paws off after they’ve stepped on the area you’ve used any ice melter so they don’t ingest it. You never know which dogs are going to be particularly sensitive to it.

Sand, clay cat litter (not the clumping kind, which is designed to clump when wet and will just make an ineffective mess), and ashes all can help you deal with ice without using any chemicals.

Most dogs I know adore winter –  the dog park is full of springing, running, happy dogs bouncing around like Tigger. In her youth, Ginger turned into a snow rabbit and bounced through snow. Dodger is in his element, whizzing around in circles and barely slowing down for a quick bite of thirst-satisfying snow. Enjoy the beauty and fun of winter –  get your dogs outside for some great exercise for both of you –  and remember that a little common sense about safety goes a long way towards enjoying yourselves.


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Dog Training Advice: You Can Change Your Dog’s Behavior and Stop Being Embarrassed While you dig out: We’re enjoying the brisk air and sunshine

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