If you’re like many people who share their homes and lives with canine companions, you probably also like to include your dog when hitting the open road. However, if you’ve never done so in winter before, you should be aware that cold season road trips with dogs pose particular challenges that aren’t a part of the picture with summer roadtrips. Here’s what you need to know about keeping your pet healthy and safe when traveling during winter.
Have Your Vehicle Serviced Before Hitting the Road
Having your car serviced before taking off on a road trip is good advice no matter the season; it’s particularly important when traveling in winter because becoming stranded due to a vehicle breakdown during subfreezing temperatures puts you and your pet in danger of developing frostbite and other adverse conditions. Don’t neglect to have your tires thoroughly checked while you’re at it, and consider having all-weather tires put on if you’ll be driving on roads where there’s a likelihood of snow, ice, or freezing rain.
Pack Paw Protection
Most people know that paws need protection from hot sidewalks, hot sand, and other surfaces during the summer, but winter comes with its own set of weather-related hazards. Some municipalities distribute fine gravel over driving surfaces to provide vehicles with an added layer of traction. Although this practice may create safer driving conditions, it has the potential to wreak havoc on your furry friend’s paws when you decide to stop and let your dog out for a break. Your dog’s paws have numerous cracks and crevices in which small particles can easily become lodged.
Some communities use salt as a deicer. Like small particles of gravel, the salt can become lodged in the pads of your pet’s feet, but it also poses a greater risk; dogs tend to lick their feet a lot, and ingesting road salt will make your dog sick. Fortunately, it’s not fatal except when consumed in large amounts, but your dog will likely develop digestive distress.
Keep an Eye Out for Antifreeze
Antifreeze has a sweet taste that dogs may like, but it’s an extremely toxic substance that can be fatal if ingested. Keep a sharp eye out for this red substance on sidewalks and other paved surfaces when you and your pup are out walking. If you suspect that your pet has ingested antifreeze, you’ll need to get it to an emergency veterinarian as soon as possible.
Before you leave home, be sure to research the contact information of emergency vet clinics so that you won’t be scrambling in the event that your furry friend needs emergency assistance. This is a good idea no matter what time of year you’re traveling.
Acclimate Your Dog to the Cold
Many dogs think it’s fun to frolic in the snow. If you’re coming from a place where temperatures are moderate, prepare your dog for winter a few minutes at a time, and always bring them inside if they start to shiver— especially for an older dog. Keep in mind that different breeds handle the cold better than others. A general rule of thumb is dog breeds that were developed in colder parts of the planet fare better than their counterparts from warmer areas. For instance, it’s likely that a Chihuahua, a breed with its roots in Mexico, won’t ever feel comfortable in the cold. A Siberian Husky, on the other hand, will have a natural affinity for cold temperatures.
It’s also a good idea to take along a few hard copy photos of your dog in case it gets loose. You’ll be able to quickly tack these up on bulletin boards and poles to let local residents know that your dog is missing.