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on thin ice: the dangers for pets posed by ice

  • Dr. Kim
  • Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on
    Staff Veterinarian and Pet Health Writer of Petplan


Well, it happened again recently – a dog found himself in a very dicey situation when he fell through the ice into frigid waters. This time it was Lake Michigan. His owner had let him off of his leash so that he could get a little exercise, but when the owner couldn’t find him, he feared the worst. The lucky dog was found in time, though, and is once again patrolling the shores of Lake Michigan, safely attached to his leash.

Winter poses a variety of threats to our beloved pets, but thin ice ranks near the top of the list of most dangerous winter perils. Dogs aren’t very good judges of ice thickness, and can easily find themselves in trouble if they venture onto iced-over bodies of water. Once a dog has fallen through the ice, it is very difficult for them to get out unaided. This leads to two potentially life-threatening situations: hypothermia and near drowning (or drowning). 

 

Being submerged in freezing water can lower a dog’s body temperature rapidly, even if he’s swimming to stay afloat. When a dog’s body temperature drops below 100 degrees (it’s normally around 102), he can be considered hypothermic. Hypothermia causes lethargy, which will contribute to an inability to keep swimming.

 

Of course, drowning is also a serious concern for dogs who fall through the ice, but even if they are rescued in time, a near-drowning episode may also be cause for concern. That’s because near drowning can lead to an accumulation of fluid in the lungs (known as pulmonary edema) up to 12 hours after being deposited safely on dry land.

 

If you see a pet in peril in icy waters, call for help. Countless humans have attempted to save animals who have fallen through the ice only to fall through the ice themselves. Never attempt rescue alone.

 

A slippery slope

So, you don’t live near a body of water? You should still be on the lookout for ice.  Just because our pets have four feet, that doesn’t mean that they are any more graceful than we are when it comes to walking on ice. Slippery sidewalks can turn into a runway for injury, especially in geriatric pets who have a hard time getting around. Try to avoid icy routes when on your daily walks.

 

Speaking of icy routes, don’t forget about the danger that de-icers and rock salt can cause. Though they are useful for turning slick surfaces back into firm ground, they can be an irritant to our pets’ foot pads and skin. Keep some unscented baby wipes by the door so that you can wipe your pet’s feet after an outdoor excursion. Or, better yet, fit them with some snazzy winter boots to protect their little feet.

 

While you’re down there wiping their feet (it’s amazing what we do for our pets, right?), be on the lookout for clumped snow, which can accumulate in the hair between the foot pads and cause discomfort.

 

As we head into some of the most severe winter weeks, keep these hazards in the back of your head. Keep your pets safe through this season and into the next and protect your family budget against costly veterinary bills with Petplan pet insurance, and before you know it, you’ll all be enjoying the dog days of summer.

How do you protect your pets during the winter months? Tell us in the comments!

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Chris AshtonCo-Founder and Co-CEO of Petplan Pet Insurance
vet tip of the week

Visit your vet at least once a year to keep your pet protected from preventable diseases.