Hidden dangers all dog owners should know about before going for walks in snow

Snow has hit Britain this week, with roads and airports being hit as the Met Office issues three days of weather warnings.

Dramatic pictures have shown snow falling across the country on Thursday morning.

Brits are urged to take extra care, but what about those of us with animals who need to be walked regularly?

It can be tempting to take your dog out for a run and play in the snow – but make sure you know the best advice before you head out into the freezing temperatures with your pooch. Hidden dangers await.

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Dangers for dogs in the snow

It's not just the cold weather that's dangerous for pooches right now in the UK but, rather, the grit put down on roads and pavements to prevent people from slipping – or cars from crashing.

For dogs, this salt grit can be particularly harmful because it contains chemicals which can produce burns on paws if they come into prolonged contact.

Avoid walking on gritted surfaces where possible.

The other danger is ice balls forming between the pads and toes of the feet, or clinging around the surrounding fur – dogs with particularly hairy feet are more vulnerable.

Not only is this uncomfortable for the dog, but slush and ice on the roads can also contain harmful chemical de-icing products.

Always check for ice balls on your dog's paws and remove them while out walking if your dog suddenly seems uncomfortable or starts limping.

The general rule is if it feels too cold for you, it's probably too cold for your dog to stay out for an extended period of time. If you are venturing out, here are some top tips from the Dog's Trust :

How to keep your dog safe in the snow

  • Keep them on a lead: If it's snowing heavily, your dog can become disorientated and easily lost. Keep him/her on a lead so you know where they are at all times.
  • Don't let them walk on frozen ponds: the ice may not be thick enough to take their weight. If they do fall through the ice, don't be tempted to go in after them – you might make things worse. Instead, encourage your dog to swim to you and call the emergency services
  • Make sure you wipe your dogs legs, feet and stomach when you come indoors after a snowy walk as the grit from the roads can irritate their feet. Avoid walking on grit where possible.

  • Keep your dog away from any Antifreeze. It is highly poisonous but tasty. Make sure you mop up any spills if you are using it
  • Make sure your dog is wearing a collar and an ID tag and is microchipped. It is important to ensure your microchipping database is up to date with your address and contact details

The RSPCA advises: "You may not feel like going for a walk in winter, but the exercise will keep your pet happy and healthy. You and your dog should wear reflective clothing to ensure you're both visible.

"Keep your dogs away from ponds and lakes that are iced over. Thin ice may break under a dog's weight. Also watch out for your dogs' paws becoming impacted with snow, which can cause discomfort."

It's not just about dogs. Yes, you might want to go out for a walk with your dog but how is your cat coping with the cold weather?

They can be equally vulnerable, but Cats' Protection have some top tips for keeping moggies healthy and happy in this awful weather.

  • When your cat comes in from the snow, wipe off any road grit and any other substances that may stick to his paws or fur
  • Keep the doors of sheds and outbuildings shut or wedged open, so that cats do not become trapped
  • Cats may also climb into vehicle engines for warmth whilst out roaming. Be vigilant, and check under the bonnet of your vehicle before starting your vehicle
  • Provide some shelter for cats that have access outside, such as a designated shelter, or cardboard box partially covered with plastic sheeting
  • Take special care of your cat if he has arthritis, as the cold can severely affect inflamed joints. Provide additional warm and comfortable places for your cat to rest or sleep. If your cat is finding it hard to reach his favourite resting places then look at ways of making it easier for him to reach his preferred places. Also ensure he can easily access his chosen toileting site

  • If your cat uses an outdoor water source to drink, make sure it doesn’t freeze. Always have clean, fresh water available inside in case the outdoor source is inaccessible
  • If your cat is seeing snow for the first time, then consider letting your cat wander in a safe and enclosed area such as a garden, and accompany them when they do
  • If you should let your cat wander further, let him outside when temperatures are highest and traffic levels are lowest. Also, check your cat flap regularly to ensure it hasn’t frozen over or become blocked by snow
  • Keep your cat in during the hours of darkness when there is a greater risk of cats being involved in road traffic accidents, theft and physical attacks
  • If you haven’t done so already, consider taking out pet insurance for your cat in view of the risk to your cat posed by the winter weather

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