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How to get your dog healthily through the winter season

Road salt, gravel and snow - get your dog through the cold season despite the cold temperatures

22.2.2021

The winter brings constant stress for our dog's paws. Road salt and gravel are part of it. Both substances attack dog paws and cause discomfort, pain and – if not taken care of – health hazards such as snow gastritis.

If your dogs’ paws have constant contact with road salt and gravel as soon as they are out for a walk. The salt penetrates between the toes and irritates the sensitive skin. Depending on how much salt is put out, it can also get into the paw pads and lead to irritation. The combination of road salt, sharp-edged gravel and possibly sharp ice crusts can injure the paws. Once this happens walking your dog becomes difficult. The dogs begin to hobble, hold up their paws, and refuse to move on. At home, the dog will lick its paw and irritate the sore spots to such an extent that inflammation develops and in the worst-case eczema. Any further contact with the salted ground becomes torture. The salt dries out the paw-pads even further so that the cracks in it become deeper and even more salt and gravel can penetrate.

First aid measure on site

When your dog shows discomfort, it is imperative to leave the area and carefully clean the paws. It is best to bypass all the stretches that have been salted or gravelled and choose alternative routes.

Precautionary measures

  • It is advisable to apply a special paw protection cream to the pads of the dog's paws before going for a walk. This keeps the skin supple and protects it from cracks. However, products containing tea tree oil must be avoided as tea tree oil can be toxic.
  • Long, protruding fur needs to be shortened carefully so that no lumps of ice can form between the pads of the paws and toes.
  • Paths covered with salt and other aggressive grit should be avoided if possible.
  • After the walk, the paws are cleaned with lukewarm water and dried well.

Snow gastritis

Dogs love to play in the snow and some eat small or large amounts. However, for dogs with a sensitive stomach, this can lead to painful gastritis (acute inflammation of the gastric mucosa), especially if the snow is contaminated with road salt. Not only the cold of the snow but also the pollution irritates the gastric mucous membranes. Depending on the amount ingested, the irritation can cause inflammation. The first symptoms are vomiting and diarrhoea. Other signs include increased thirst, stomach pain, and even blood in the vomit and diarrhoea. A veterinarian should be consulted if any of the symptoms care shown.

Preventive measures

To prevent the dog from eating snow, one should take preventive measures

  • do not throw snowballs
  • keep the dog on a leash
  • put on a muzzle
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