“The frost and sunlight! The winter day’s delightl!” Pushing once wrote (and I briefly translated, so no judgment for my rhyming skills, please!) in his “Eugene Onegin” poetry novel.
He was spot on. Winter is a beautiful season to embrace and enjoy. The dogs adore it, too. Mine cannot wait to get outside and do their version of snow angels, which basically involves rubbing their silly happy faces against the frosty grass – bottoms up, wiggling and wagging.
They think everything about winter is fun. But unfortunately there are two serious dangers neither pups nor many pup parents are aware of, so we need to talk about those today.
SALT & GRIT (also called de-icers) appear on our roads and paths at the first hint of arctic breeze. They can be easily spotted as most have a pink or terracotta-like tint. Both can be extremely dangerous for dogs and even cause a fatal outcome. Even though salt seems pretty harmless (we do eat it, don’t we?!) the combination of sodium, chloride and ferrocyanide can cause severe irritation, burning and cracked paws if the dog walks through the grit.
Licking the paws or de-iced surfaces can be life-threatening because the excess of sodium chloride is toxic to dogs leading to a condition called hypernatremia.
The symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, lack of coordination, excessive thirst, frequent urination, tremors, seizures and coma. The paws can look red, swollen, irritated, cracked and excessively dry.
Protect your spaniel by diligently washing and drying his paws after every walk (even if the path and roads you walk on seems grit-free); applying protective paw wax before each walk and, if the gritting is excessive in your area – considering dog booties; stopping your dog from licking his paws and any surfaces that may contain traces of grit.
But what if the path is still slippery? There are a few ways to stay safe:
… invest into non-slip boots;
… use a shovel to clear the path from the snow and thick ice;
… splash the path you use most frequently with a bucket or two of hot water – it’s enough to melt the ice and frost;
… use plain rough sand instead of grit and salts – it will give you the needed grip yet will be absolutely safe for your dog.
ANTIFREEZE is the other danger of winter. The solution contains ethylene glycol that tastes sweet to dogs and a small dose can lead to kidney failure and death. Even if you are incredibly careful when using it for your own car, the antifreeze residue can be often found on roads, parking spaces and snow and get onto your dog’s paws.
Dogs are one of the most susceptible species.
The symptoms of poisoning can appear within 30 minutes following ingestion and include nausea, vomiting, drunken behaviour, lack of coordination and knuckling, excessive thirst and urination, loss of consciousness, coma and death.
Protect your dog by storing antifreeze away from your pooch’s access; using it correctly and cleaning any residue on your car, hands and surfaces; washing your dog’s paws after each walk and, should you suspect anything odd, taking your spaniel to the vets immediately.
Have a safe and enjoyable winter!