Winter pet safety

Had an interesting email last week with a column suggestion. Thanks, Michele for reading, and writing in.

Most of the time, our winter worries regarding our pets are related to outfitting them to keep them warm and dry. Very important concerns, for sure, but not the only dangers winter poses.

Michele raised the following point:

“Thank you for your articles written in the Herald. I have an idea which could benefit others since we have gotten some snow and probably will get more. It is recommending that people who have dogs make sure that snow is not piled high by their fence. If the snow gets hard, it is very easy for a dog to jump a fence and get out. I experienced this a few years ago and had a dog get out and bite me.”

Winter weather, snow and ice, change our landscape. They provide our pets new avenues to get into danger and we need to make sure we take that into mind. Michele’s point about snow making escape from a yard easier is just one example. Snow build up can also give a dog access to areas they shouldn’t be in as well. Access to areas the dog has always been curious about on walks can now be explored when snowbanks build up. In many of the areas, snow provides access but does not provide exit, and can trap them where you cannot get them out.

Dogs are curious by nature, and always looking for an opportunity to explore. Add in the new trails that wildlife may create in the snow for them to follow, and the opportunity for a dog to embark on a misadventure increases dramatically.

Fresh snow makes tracking easier for a dog, and hides dangers. Rabbits may have no issues with scooting across fresh snow, never sinking in. A dog following that track might not know how deep the snow is, and can easily get in over his head as he runs through a field or worse, a forest. Snow can also cover other dangers, including dangerous windfall branches, construction debris with nails, broken glass, or even fencing meant to deter wildlife entering or livestock leaving, which can be barbed or electrified. It is easy for a dog to suffer cuts or even breaks to their legs when barrelling through these areas.

Once a dog gets on a track, their headlong rush through uncharted territory can lead them into danger, especially if the trail is one that is easy for a rabbit, harder for a dog, and impossible for a human. Trying to track them down after a reckless run into the woods can be a harrowing moment.

Other dangers hidden by snow can include water, especially in early winter and late. Tin ice covered in fresh snow may look to a dog as a safe track, but they can quickly find themselves in great danger. It doesn’t take a raging river to endanger a dog’s life or it’s owners. A small pond, or even a deep drainage ditch that is full can get you wet enough to cause hypothermia quickly.

Identify new threats that can threaten us and our pets in winter is just part of enjoying the outdoors warm and safely with your pet.