The hidden dangers when having a mooch with your pooch!
Article by Kathy Hobson of the Sussex branch of Dog First Aid. The benefits of walking on both your physical and mental health are well documented, but it is also an absolutely essential part of your dog’s wellbeing. Dogs need physical exercise every day as well as the mental stimulation it provides. Even on cold or wet days a short ‘sniff’ walk around the block makes a big difference. But what are the hidden dangers that you need to be aware of at this time of year? Kathy Hobson from Dog First Aid Sussex, a dog first aid trainer, shares her top tips for walking your dog during winter.
Beware the hidden dangers!
Undergrowth can conceal dangers such as broken glass or discarded food including cooked bones, and even just getting up close and personal with a bush can also lead to eye injuries. Take care when your dog is exploring where you cannot see, particularly those inquisitive puppies.
Conkers, Acorns & Fungi
Coming from the horse chestnut tree, conkers contain aesculin which is toxic to dogs. Most dogs would need to ingest several to suffer severe poisoning, but just one or two could be dangerous to puppies. There is also the risk of intestinal blockages.
The toxic ingredient in acorns is thought to be tannic acid, which causes liver and kidney damage. Like conkers, acorns can also cause intestinal blockages.
Although some wild mushrooms and toadstools are harmless, others are extremely poisonous to your dog. Since it’s very difficult to tell between them, it is advisable to keep your dog away from them.
If you suspect your dog may have eaten any parts of a conker, mushroom or acorn, please call your vet for advice. It’s an idea to take a photograph or a sample (while wearing gloves) of the suspect item if possible.
When exploring, your dog might come across other poisonous substances such as rat poisons or even a poisoned rat. Rat poisons contain anticoagulants, which cause blood clotting problems and can cause massive internal bleeding if ingested. If you believe your dog may have eaten a rat poison, please call your vet immediately.
Unfortunately for us in the UK, we see far more rain at this time of year, bringing with it the inevitable slugs and snails. Take care when letting your dog out into your garden as some dogs will try to play with them and may also try to eat them!
Lungworm is transmitted to dogs in this way as lungworm larvae are carried in infected slugs, snails and frogs. Dogs can also be infected by chewing toys or treats that have been outside and could have tiny slugs or their slime on them. Symptoms range from mild to very severe and can include breathing problems, lethargy and poor blood clotting ability. Your vet can advise on preventative measures.
Also, please don’t use slug or snail pellets in your garden as the common ingredient, metaldehyde, is poisonous to dogs. Please use pet friendly methods of dealing with slugs and snails instead.
Snow and ice
Some dogs will love playing in the snow; however, for others it can cause them pain and distress. Ice balls can develop in the fur, particularly around ankles and in between toes too and should be gently thawed when home using warm water.
Snow and ice can also cause splits in pads and frostbite too so if necessary, think about taking appropriate steps to safely manage your puppy’s outside time. You may want to think about preventative measures such as boots for paws or even a thin layer of Vaseline on pads for protection.
Antifreeze and gritting salt
When topping up your car with antifreeze or screenwash which contains antifreeze, be mindful that it tastes really sweet to dogs but is highly toxic if ingested. If spilled, ensure that it is cleaned up immediately.
Antifreeze is sometimes added to gritting salt and may also be present in roadside puddles so don’t allow your dog to drink from these. If walking where roads and pavements have been gritted remember to rinse and dry paws thoroughly when you get home. As well as being abrasive and drying to the pads of the paws, gritting salt may also cause chemical burns and be highly toxic if ingested by your dogs from licking their paws after exposure.
As the mornings become chilly and the evenings draw in its sometimes harder to make sure that our canine friends get as much exercise as they need. Remember obesity in dogs is all about calories in and calories used so their food must be reduced if they are doing less exercise.
Most vet practices provide free nurse clinics to help you manage your dog’s weight so get in touch with them to get your dog checked.
Whilst it is still extremely rare and rather a mystery, Alabama Rot (or CRGV) seems to perhaps be linked to walking in muddy areas.
Rinse off paws if muddy since it causes damage to the blood vessels of the skin and the kidneys. Be vigilant for lesions – particularly on the paws, legs and tummy. More information can be found in this blog by my colleague Bridget:
So, what should you be taking with you on your walks?
On every walk you should always take a first aid kit with you containing the basics. You should also have a more comprehensive kit easily accessible at home and in the car. I have stock of both full kits and essentials pouches, if you don’t currently have these. When I’m out walking with my dog this is the first aid equipment I have with me:
- The Dog First Aid essentials pouch. Includes: A pair of gloves, a bandage, a dressing pad and a pod of saline solution. I have added to this:
- A list of useful phone numbers and a note of my dog’s ‘normal’ vital signs.
- A foil blanket in case of shock and also to help me to carry/drag my dog if necessary.
- Long plastic tweezers for choking/thorns/splinters.
- Microporous tape to help secure bandaging in place.
- An extra length of bandaging to use as a muzzle.
- I also carry a squeaky toy to be able to use as a distraction in a fight or as emergency recall.
These additional items (except the toy) are all included in the Dog First Aid larger first aid kits.
Finally, when walking somewhere new, it may be a good idea to keep your dog on the lead the first time you go there. When you do finally let your dog off lead to explore, take extra care to ensure that it is safe to do so. Take extra special care when it is windy as it will affect your dog’s recall so if you spot a potential danger, he may not come back when called.
Kathy Hobson is the owner-operator of the Sussex branch of Dog First Aid. You can get in touch with Kathy and learn more by visiting www.dog-first-aid.com/sussex or email email@example.com for more information.