How to keep your guide dog safe in cold weather
Winter can be a fun and exciting time for you and your guide dog, but it comes with challenges too! Some of the most common dangers to dogs during winter include hypothermia, frostbite, antifreeze poisoning, and dehydration. But the good news is that there are simple steps you can take to keep your guide dog healthy, happy and protected from the elements.
We've put together some helpful tips so you can go ahead and embrace the winter wonderland with your guide dog by your side, knowing that you've got everything under control.
Exercising and walking your guide dog in cold weather
It's good to be aware of the potential risks that your dog may face while you're enjoying winter adventures together. From wrapping up warm in freezing temperatures to avoiding slippery conditions underfoot, here are our winter safety tips for colder weather:
What to do when it's too cold to exercise outside?
Whilst walking and playing outdoors are great ways to keep active, it's important to remember that too much exposure to cold weather can be harmful. So, opt for shorter routes that are close to home during very chilly snaps, and try some indoor enrichment activities to keep your guide dog mentally stimulated.
Harmful substances in the winter months
Be aware of ice-melting chemicals such as rock salt which can cause dehydration or burns in your dog's mouth and throat. Antifreeze can also be harmful to your dog if ingested, as it contains a chemical called 'ethylene glycol'. It has a sweet taste that might tempt your dog to try to eat it, so make sure to keep it out of reach.
Antifreeze can also cause irritation and dryness to your dog's paws and might be ingested when your dog licks their paws as part of self-grooming. It’s essential to clean your guide dog's paws after walking in areas where it has been used and if you suspect your dog has ingested antifreeze, get in touch with your vet immediately before letting your Dog Health and Wellbeing Specialist know by calling Guide Line.
How frostbite and hypothermia might affect your dog
It's not just humans that can suffer from frostbite and hypothermia during freezing weather; our dogs are at risk too. Frostbite is when the skin and tissues freeze, and hypothermia is when the body temperature drops. These are both serious conditions, so be mindful of these early signs particularly if your dog has got very cold outside.
Here are some signs of frostbite in dogs to be mindful of:
- Pale, grey, or blue skin
- Swelling and pain in the affected area
- Blisters on the skin
- Limping or avoiding putting weight on the affected limb
Frostbite can be painful, and your guide dog may need medication to help manage the pain. If you think your dog has frostbite, follow these steps:
- Call your vet right away, as frostbite can cause serious tissue damage, and early treatment is essential
- Move your dog to a warm room
- Gently warm the affected area with warm, moist towels or water (not hot) - don't heat the affected area too quickly, as it could cause more damage
- Monitor your dog and check for any changes in their condition
- Contact your Dog Health and Wellbeing Specialist, via Guide Line, to make them aware
Hypothermia can be scary, but if you know the signs, you can act quickly. The symptoms of hypothermia in dogs can include the following:
- Shivering to warm up
- Lethargy and appearing sluggish and tired
- Slow heart rate
- Muscle stiffness
- Shallow or laboured breathing
- Pale or blue gums
- In severe cases, dogs may lose consciousness
If you think your guide dog might be suffering from hypothermia, you should take the following steps:
- Contact your vet immediately. Hypothermia can be a serious condition, and early treatment is crucial
- Move your dog to a warm room and cover them with a blanket to help warm up
- Offer warm water to drink to help raise your dog's body temperature
- Monitor your dog and watch for any changes in their condition until you can be seen by your vet
- Reach out to your Dog Health and Wellbeing Specialist by calling Guide Line
How to keep your dog warm at night
It's more than just the outside temperature you need to be aware of during the winter months. Remember that when the heating goes off your house can get chilly at night and could leave your dog shivering in their usually cosy spot.
Here are some tips for keeping your dog safe and warm at night:
- Provide a warm, comfortable bed that's off the ground and well-insulated
- Set a comfortable temperature in the room, ideally between 20-22°C
- Give your dog extra bedding, such as blankets or towels, to maintain their body heat and help protect them from the cold
- Place your dog's bed away from draughty windows and doors
What to do if you're concerned about your guide dog in cold weather
If your guide dog is showing signs of distress or illness that are causing concern, don't hesitate to get in touch with your Dog Health and Wellbeing Specialist via Guide Line.
Please get in touch with the emergency line on 0345 143 0217 if anything happens outside of office hours.