What are the biggest dangers for dogs over the winter months?

In the winter months, there are a whole host of hazards dog owners need to be aware of. Here we have listed some of the most common:


1. Antifreeze poisoning

The worst of all the winter-time chemical spills is antifreeze, which can leak from a car’s radiator. Ethylene glycol, as it’s officially known, is highly dangerous. It is sweet tasting and palatable and even a relatively small quantity can cause potentially fatal kidney damage. In the early stages, your dog may appear drunk.  If you know or fear your dog has ingested ethylene glycol contact your vet without delay.  The prognosis becomes poorer the longer the delay between ingestion and the beginning of treatment.


2. Houseplants

The poinsettia plant’s brightly coloured leaves contain an irritant sap. The plant is poisonous if eaten in large quantities but it’s unlikely your dog would ingest enough because of the taste and irritation from the sap.  But to be on the safe side, keep poinsettias out of your dog’s reach. Holly and mistletoe plants, along with their berries, are toxic to dogs. Symptoms of illness from ingesting these include intestinal upset, such as vomiting and diarrhoea, excessive drooling, and abdominal pain. Daffodils and lilies are also toxic to both dogs and cats, especially the bulbs.


Winter safety for dogs - Vets Now

3. Ice, snow and grit

If we get a cold snap it’s great fun to get out and about with your dog.  But it’s important to keep a regular check on their paws as ice and snow can ball up in the space between their toes and there is also the risk of frostbite.  Salt and other chemicals used to grit roads and pavements can also be an irritant to your dog’s pads, especially if they have any small abrasions, so we would advise wiping their paws with a cloth and warm water when you get home.


4. Freezing temperatures

Slim dogs with a short hair coat, such as greyhounds and chihuahuas, can feel the cold and you may find that as your dog gets older he starts to feel the cold more.   Dogs are just as sensitive to cold weather as people, and hypothermia is a risk if they’re exposed to extreme temperatures.  Most dogs will be fine without a coat while exercising, but if you are likely to spend long periods outside you should consider buying one. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that some breeds, such as Alaskan malamutes and St Bernards, are well suited to cold environments and are unlikely to need a coat. Indeed they may well be uncomfortable with one on.


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5. Lack of exercise

With fewer daylight hours and colder, wetter weather you may find that your dog does not get as much exercise as he does in the summer.  Obesity is a growing problem in dogs and can lead to other illnesses from chronic to acute.  So it’s a good idea to monitor his weight and food intake, as you may need to reduce his food portions to stop him putting on weight over the winter.


6. Road traffic accidents

If you are walking in low light or darkness consider a fluorescent jacket and collar.  You could also attach a flashing light to your dog’s collar to make him easier to spot.  Road traffic accidents are a big cause of injury and death in dogs during the winter months and we regularly see victims in our emergency clinics and hospitals.  On top of this always ensure your dog is wearing an identification disc and make sure he is microchipped, too.


Watch our video on antifreeze dangers