Avoiding Winter Health Hazards

By the Editors of Exceptional Canine for Exceptional Canine

As cold weather approaches, you winter-proof your car and your house. But it's also important to think about your dog: Only you can protect him from winter hazards when the temperature drops.

Your Dog's Special Winter Needs

Any time you take your dog for walks in icy conditions, take special care to check his paws for ice balls and cuts. Wipe his paws dry with a cloth after he treks on salt or chemical snow-removers.

Also be particularly attentive to your dog's daily needs as winter arrives. His caloric needs might change if he's either less active (and needs fewer calories) or exercising in the cold (and requires more). And regular grooming also helps your dog's coat do its job better in protecting him from the cold, advises the American Kennel Club.

Avoiding Winter Health Hazards

Treating Frostbite

Frostbite is caused by exposure to extremely cold weather. The symptoms, which don't develop until 48 hours after exposure, include pain and swelling. If the blood flow to the extremity is entirely interrupted, the tissue will turn black and fall off.

To treat suspected frostbite:

  • Hug your dog to you so that your body heat can warm him.
  • Never rub him, as this could damage tissue.
  • Place him in a bath of warm (never hot) water. Test the water's temperature by dipping your elbow in it — a much more accurate analysis than using your hand.
  • Take your pet to the veterinarian immediately if he is severely chilled or unresponsive.

Beware of Hazards in the Garage

If your dog spends time in the garage during the winter, be aware of these potential hazards:

  • Licking up only a few teaspoons of antifreeze — which tastes sweet to a pet — can kill a dog. Be sure to check your car to make sure the radiator isn't leaking.
  • Never leave your pet in the garage while you start the car, as carbon monoxide (which escapes from the tailpipe) can kill him.
  • Rat and mouse poisons are used more frequently in the winter months, says the American Humane Society. Make sure your dog can't access them.


Note: This section of the Canada's Guide to Dogs website is intended as a source of information only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional care. Always consult with your Veterinarian about health related matters.

For additional information on the health and well-being of your dog - from general health and nutrition issues to emergency situations - visit the Health & Nutrition section of the Canada's Guide to Dogs website.