Making Snowy Weather Safer for Dogs

If anyone needs a compelling argument against living on the East coast in the winter, today in New York Cityis it. Snow conspiring with cold,...
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If anyone needs a compelling argument against living on the East coast in the winter, today in New York Cityis it. Snow conspiring with cold, damp conditions and temperatures in the 20s – who needs this?

OK, sorry for sounding so Scroogey; I just spent the better part of this morning shoveling 20″ of snow offmy building’s stoop. Grrr.The snow is lovely, white, and deep – but it does present its challenges. First there are the puddles of antifreeze everywhere the eye can see. Everybody knows this bright-green leakage from automobiles is both extremely attractive and deadly to dogs, giving new meaning to the term “sickeningly sweet.” Ingestion of sweet-tasting antifreeze causesK9 kidney failure, sowintertime dog-walks bring the added challenge of staying one step ahead of green puddles.

Ingestion isn’t the only way for a pet to becomeintoxicated by antifreeze; it can also be absorbed through the paw-pad skin, so don’t let Spot lick at orstep inthe green stuff.

There is a pet-safe alternative. The deadlycomponent of traditional antifreeze is ethylene glycol, but the safer alternative – Sierra – uses that chemical’s less-toxic cousin, propylene glycol, as its active ingredient. Sierracosts about a dollar more per gallon than traditional, toxicantifreeze, but a 50/50 mix of Sierra and water will protect a car’s engine to -26 degreesFahrenheit. (For greater protection, simply increase the ratio of antifreeze to water.)

Obviously one can only conrol one’s own car, not the millions of other vehicles driving through and around one’s home town. So do your best to avoiddogs making any contact with this deadly chemical.
Compounding thechallenge ofa wintertime dog-walkare the tons snow-melting chemical “salt” being poured everywhere: on roads, sidewalks, and even building stoops. While some dogs are able to walk bravely through salt-crusted concrete, others stop, hold up a paw, and give you a truly pitiable look. That salty stuff is extremely corrosive – it even eats away atmetal, so just imagine how it feels ona dog’s sensitivepaw-pads.

Then there’s my dog Dan. So much for “stoic” pit bulls: This poorcreature isa tenderfoot who literally cries out in pain when rock salt makes contact with his paws. (And, wouldn’t you know, he won’t tolerate having booties strapped to his feet; talk about a dilemma!)

Rock salt contains sodium chloride or potassium chloride, which can heat up to 175 degrees when exposed to water, ice, and low temperatures. So, when your dog steps in this stuff, he literally feels a burn – and if the salt is not washed off his poor feet, it will continue burning, causing skin ulcers that can become infected.

Thoroughly washing and wiping a dog’s paws after each salty walk is a must. Keep some warm water and a stack of old towels by your entrance door, dedicatedto this chore.(Or check out the PawPlunger.) If you don’t, your dog will take matters into his own paws and get busy licking hisfeet clean like a cat – and in so doing, he’ll likely give himself a nice case of the runs, because those salty chemicals are known to cause digestive upset.

If you’ve donedue paw-wipe diligence but Spot still licks furiously at his feet after an outing in dismal urban snow, try applying a small amount of Neem oil, which is excellent for treating temperature and chemical burns (just be careful to do thisin the kitchen, where thefloor is easy to wipe clean, as Neem is extremely oily).

Repeat as often as necessary; Neem is a natural, non-toxic extract, taken from a relative of the mahogany tree, that’s used in grooming products for pets and people. A littleNeem goes a long way, and even one application does wonders to condition and moisturizepets’paw-pads -which is very helpful, as dry, cracked paw-pads soak up more street nastiness.

If youhave any influence with your building’s management, you can try convincing them to use Safe Paw Ice Melter, which is pet-safe, child-safe, andeffective enough to be used at airports. Safe Paw’s bluish-green beads have a crystalline amide core infused with special glycols. The liquid component starts melting ice, then the crystal core destabilizes the ice to speed up melting. Safe Paw even attracts solar heat for extra melting power during daylight hours!

Do you have any helpful survival tips for wintertime walks with Spot? Please share them in the comments!

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