As the winds gust and the snow accumulates, the kids' excitement mounts at the prospect of a snow day off from school. Many dogs are equally enthusiastic about the white stuff when given the opportunity to frolic and play in the Eskimo way. The escapade provides fun and exercise for your dog and should not be discouraged if he enjoys it. However, there are some hazards you need to know about snow before that next blizzard strikes so you can keep your dog out of harm's way.

Slipping and Sliding Leads to Falling and Fracturing

There is something about a change in ground cover that energizes dogs into zoom mode. They run, pounce and kick up snow with reckless abandon. If the kids are playing in the snow, the dogs want to join in on the action. Since the ground's usual traction has been covered, this enthusiastic romp through several inches of snow or over icy terrain can result in the following injuries:

  • Tendon or ligament tears
  • Broken bones
  • Strained muscles

If you want your dog to enjoy some fun in the snow, try to curb his unbridled enthusiasm by providing him with a particular task to focus on. If the ground is not icy, play a few rounds of fetch by throwing a brightly colored toy straight ahead. This should keep your dog running in a straight path, reducing the need for quick twists and turns that can cause him to slip and fall. If the thrown toy sinks into the snow when it lands, he can have fun pawing at the snow in search of it.

The Nose Doesn't Know In the Snow

Be sure your dog is securely contained within your yard, and use caution when opening the door to your home. Once an excited dog charges into the snowy great outdoors, he may keep running. This is how dogs become lost during snowstorms. Once the ground is covered by snow, the scents familiar to your dog are covered up as well. If your dog finds himself in these white surroundings, he may not be able to easily find his way back because his nose might not pick up the familiar scents needed to point him in the right direction. Restrict your dog's snow day outings to your fenced yard, in which the only thing he will use his nose for is to explore and tunnel into the snow. If you do not have a fence, keep your dog on a leash when he is outdoors in the snow. You should also make sure he has an identification tag on his collar and that your contact information you listed when registering his microchip is current.

A Greedy Snow Munch Is Not a Healthy Lunch

In their propensity for munching on anything that looks intriguing, many dogs perceive a snowy backyard as a super-sized dish of ice cream. Dogs also tend to eat snow as an attempt to stay hydrated. While the few unavoidable licks of inquiry may not be harmful, greedy snow grazing can result in gastrointestinal upset. In addition to vomiting, ingesting large quantities of snow will contribute to lowering your dog's core body temperature. Old snow or snow that covers certain areas of your property may contain toxins, such as traces of pesticides, antifreeze or other chemical products, or be contaminated by excrement from backyard wildlife. Discourage all snow snacking, and provide a bowl of fresh drinking water for your thirsty pooch.

Mercury Falling and Hypothermic Risks Rising

If you plan to allow your dog to play outdoors in the snow for any extended length of time, be aware of the outdoor temperature as well as that of your dog. Hypothermia is a life-threatening condition that sets in when your dog's core body temperature drops too low for proper organ function. Some signs of hypothermia include the following:

  • Extreme shivering
  • Pale or bluish-gray gums
  • Stiff movements
  • Decrease in alertness
  • Shallow respiration
  • Lethargy

If your dog exhibits any of these signs, bring him indoors at once and contact your veterinarian immediately. To reduce your dog's risk for hypothermia, practice the following tips:

  • Limit his time outside to a few minutes. If the outdoor temperature is too cold for you, go with the assumption that it is too cold for your furry friend, especially if he is a puppy, a senior or has been diagnosed with hypothyroidism.
  • Do not allow your dog to eat snow.
  • Check your dog's paws frequently to remove packed snow and ice from in between the pads.
  • If your dog is a shorthaired breed or a toy breed, dress him in a dog coat and boots before letting him outside.

By using common sense in assessing outdoor temperatures, supervising your dog's snow outings at all times and following these tips and tips from your veterinarian, you and your dog can enjoy some winter playtime in the snow while keeping him safe.