Winter Warning: Safety Tips for Your Dog

It takes more than fur to make it safely through the winter. Dr. Patten shares a few tips to keep your pal safe and warm on cold winter walks.

Is sidewalk salt harmful to my dog?

Sidewalk deicers can be made up of many different chemicals, such as sodium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, and calcium carbonate.  All of these chemicals can irritate the skin on your dog’s paws. Luckily, none of these chemicals are absorbed through the skin. To avoid the skin irritation, place booties on your dog when you walk outside, or simply wipe your dog’s paws with a wet towel when you come inside. The water will dilute any chemicals and rinse them away.

These chemicals, however, can be dangerous if your dog ingests a large quantity of them. If you think your dog may have gotten into a bag of sidewalk salt, or has eaten a significant amount, please see your veterinarian immediately. Look on the bag to determine what chemicals are in the sidewalk salt. This information will help guide your veterinarian in treatment.

“Pet safe” deicers contain urea and in general cause less of a skin irritation and are less harmful if ingested.  But remember, with a large exposure even “pet safe” deicers can be harmful. If you are unsure if your pet had a toxic exposure, call your veterinarian.

Does my dog need a jacket in the winter?

Winter jackets for dogs not only look cute but can provide some extra warmth for your furry friend.  Small dogs lose body heat more quickly and will therefore be colder when they go outside.  Most large dogs do not need a jacket when going outside. They are able to retain enough body heat to stay warm. If your dog is shivering, doesn’t want to walk, or is holding his/her feet up when walking, these are signs your dog may be cold and you should go inside.

Quick tip: Try walking your dog in the late morning or early afternoon hours when temperatures are a little warmer, and avoid early morning or late evening walks.

Antifreeze toxicity

Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol which is extremely toxic to dogs and cats. Antifreeze is used in cars, heating, and cooling systems.  It has a sweet taste so dogs and cats will ingest it readily.

If you accidentally spill antifreeze, or have your cooling system flushed, make sure to clean up any spilled antifreeze. If you believe your pet may have ingested antifreeze, take him/her to a veterinarian immediately.  The sooner treatment is initiated the better chance of recovery your pet has.  Ethylene glycol can cause severe kidney damage. Signs of toxicity include a pet who seems to be drunk, vomiting, increased drinking and urination, or the lack of any urination, stupor, or depression.

Many dog owners believe that because their pets have a coat of fur, they can tolerate the cold better than humans — but that’s not necessarily so. Like us, they’re used to the warmth of indoor shelter and cold weather can be as hard on them as it is on us.

Whether your dog’s a snow fanatic or prefers the couch under a cozy blanket, one thing remains certain: winter’s a time when our buddies need a little extra care.


Dr. Patten, owner of Liberty Vet Clinic in Roxborough, has extensive experience in preventative care, dental procedures, emergency medicine, and soft tissue surgery. She lives on Fox Street in East Falls with her husband and their two sons.

Liberty Vet
Just a few minutes up the road in Roxborough, this modern office (with plentiful parking) provides a full array of services for dogs and cats.  
8919 Ridge Avenue
Open Mon/Thurs 9am – 7pm; Fri 9am – 1pm; Sun 9am – 1pm (closed Saturday)




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