While some dogs daintily sidestep mud puddles and tiptoe through the snow, shivering, other dogs happily get drenched in the rain, tramp through mud like a trooper, and absolutely love snow. They roll in the snow, play in it, joyfully jump into snowdrifts, and chase snowballs. Some dogs just love catching the falling snowflakes on their tongues while others love to seriously chow down on huge, icy chunks of snow.
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If your dog is one of those bold, adventurous, snow-loving canines, seeing her frolicking in the snow having such an incredibly good time warms your heart in cold weather. But have you ever wondered, "is it actually safe for my dog to eat snow?"
How can snow be harmful to my dog?
At first thought, dog owners say to themselves, "snow seems like it would be safe enough for my dog to eat." After all, it's simply precipitation composed of ice crystals that originate in clouds when the temperatures dip below freezing, then fall from the clouds and magically grow into beautifully intricate snowflakes that blanket the Earth for your dog to enjoy. But Dogtopia, operator of dog day-care centers throughout North America, warns that, contrary to popular belief, it's not safe for your dog to eat snow—at least not when you're out and about in unknown territory. Here are the reasons why:
- Eating large amounts of snow can lower your dog's core temperature, making them colder, thus risking hypothermia.Rock salt, a commercially manufactured product used to melt snow on the roads, can work it's way into the public places your dog walks or plays, and in addition to its building up on his paw pads causing irritation and even chemical burns, if ingested, salt can upset your dog's stomach — consuming large quantities can lead to serious health problems including lethargy, weakness, kidney failure, and, in worst case scenarios, seizures.
Dogtopia suggests you avoid snowy landscapes altogether and instead give your dog an ice cube or two and access to fresh and clean water, or send her off to the protected environment of one of their doggie day care facilities. But many pet parents know, a bowl of water and a couple of ice cubes will not satisfy the hardcore, furry snow-lover in your family.
When is it safe for my dog to eat snow?
Keeping in mind that in public places, you have no idea what lurks beneath the snow's surface. This can be a mixed bag of nasty things like antifreeze, non-pet-safe rock salt or other chemicals, pieces of chocolate or raisins from discarded candy bars (items that are toxic to dogs), sharp objects, and even animal waste (some people don't pick up because they mistakenly believe dog poop dissolves in the snow). For these reasons, you should prevent your dog from indiscriminately gulping down snow when out and about.
On the other hand, it makes sense that the pristine, freshly fallen snow in your backyard is safe enough if your dog partakes in a dollop or two of the fluffy, white stuff occasionally when she's outside playing, and you're watching to make sure she doesn't overindulge.
No, you don't have to deprive your canine snow-lover, because, as Patricia McConnell, PhD, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist explains, "I honestly don't know why snow is so exciting to dogs, and kids, and adults who don't have to shovel it. But maybe because it's new and different—predators love change, prey animals hate it—and it turns the world into one big play room for animals that love to play. I'm thinking, too, of river otters who love to play in the snow. So do bears."
A touch of frosty snow on the tongue, or a gulp or two of tantalizing snowflakes are OK for your dog to eat, but supervise your furry best friend when you're out for a stroll through the winter wonderland.
Ingesting too much snow can risk hypothermia, and when you're in a public park or other public space, think about what may be lying just beneath the surface and prevent your dog from eating snow on the go.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.