Monday, January 10, 2011

Is your dog safe to be on ice?

It must be that time of the year to talk about dogs and ice.
This morning, my coworker told me about bringing his dog down to the lake to see if the refreeze had created clear ice conditions — something he said has happened in the past and can be really neat to see.
Though that wasn’t the case, he talked about how his dog ran out confidently on to the ice and promptly spun out on all fours like Bambi in the Walt Disney cartoon.
I told him about the old days when Sensi used to play hockey with us.
“He managed to get some traction by really digging his nails in and taking short steps,” I told my coworker. “It was kind of funny to watch him figure out how to get his bearing on ice.”
Sensi’s dogpal didn’t get the hint, though, and wound up much the same as my coworker’s dog — splayed out on all fours.
So, is it safe for your dog to be on ice?
Well, that depends. First, it depends as to whether the ice is safe. If it’s safe for you to walk on ice, then your dog’s weight should be supported as well.
On the other hand, if you’re walking in an area with a wetland or lake and you’re unsure whether the ice is safe, I recommend keeping your dog on leash and off the ice. Unless you’re sure, it’s better to be safe than sorry. A dog is not going to understand you saying, “Stay off the ice, it’s dangerous.” They don’t know.
That much may be obvious, but what about the slipping and sliding that dogs are prone to on the ice? That also can be a major danger for your dog.
Wendy Gibson, a Clarkston resident, shared with me the story of how a neighbor’s dog became stuck on ice covering a pond behind her house.
“I heard whining all night long,” Gibson said.
With dogs of her own, she assumed the whining was coming from her dogs somewhere inside the house. But when it continued the next morning, she checked outside and saw her neighbor’s dog, Shelby, stuck on the ice covering a pond in her backyard.
“It was like her back legs gave out on her,” Gibson said. “She’s an older dog, so maybe she slipped and fell and couldn’t get back up.”
That’s probably exactly what happened.
A lot of dogs have issues with arthritis and hip dysplasia when they get older. They feel pain from these conditions and many may eventually stop walking all together when the pain becomes too intense.
So it’s easy to imagine, then, that if your dog is aging and has hip problems or arthritis problems, a spill on the ice wouldn’t be something to laugh at and reminisce about the Bambi cartoon. Your dog may wind up in serious pain, and like Shelby, may be unable to move as a result.
Thankfully for Shelby, Wendy grabbed some towels, got her warmed up and returned her to her owners.
“She seems to be doing good,” Gibson said.
It’s a happen ending to the story and a great reminder for all of us dog owners to be extra vigilant about icy conditions this winter.
Even if the ice is safe to walk on, a simple spill can put an arthritic dog in a lot of pain. Keep that in mind when out with your dog this winter and he’ll certainly thank you for it (in sloppy kisses, of course!)

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