Is it Safe to Let My Dog Eat Snow?
on December 24, 2018
Posted in Behavior Management
If you live in a city affected by cold-weather winters, you will probably experience a deluge of snow and ice over the next few months. Winter weather can pose an interesting series of challenges for pet parents, especially when dogs don’t like to walk in the cold or touch snow with their paws. However, some pets thoroughly embrace the joys winter has to offer, including snow.
Many a happy pooch will frolic through fluffy piles of snow this season—and even more will dig their faces in and try to eat it. But is this safe? Can dogs can sick or injured from eating mouthfuls and mouthfuls of snow?
In general, letting your dog chow down on a bit of frozen water vapor is perfectly safe. However, there are some things you should keep an eye on while your dog is outside lapping up snowflakes.
Why dogs eat snow
You may be wondering—of all the weird things my dog could choose to eat, why would it eat snow, with no substance or taste?
Experts aren’t completely sure, as every dog is different, and some dogs just do strange things, but they do have a few ideas for why dogs find snow appealing.
The first reason might be because your dog is unhappy with the quality of its water. If you don’t fill the water bowl very often, give your dog lukewarm water or let it sit for a day or two without refreshing it, your dog might be turning to snow to get hydrated. However, this doesn’t actually work. Snow does not provide the equivalent amount of water to a bowl of fresh, clean water, so make sure you’re keeping the water bowl refreshed and cold regularly.
If your dog appears extremely eager to drink water and/or eat lots and lots of snow, it may also be suffering from a more serious illness like Cushing’s disease or diabetes. Monitor your dog’s behavior and drinking habits to get a better idea of its health.
On the other hand, your dog might be chowing down for no other reason than because it likes the taste, texture and temperature. Even if you offer yummy food and treats, your dog might still prefer snow as a snack for no particular reason at all.
Snow: safe or scary?
For the most part, dogs will be perfectly safe if they eat some snow while out playing in the yard. Snow is merely frozen water vapor, meaning fresh, powdery snow can do very little harm to your dog’s health.
Some dog owners have noticed that their pet gets a stomach ache after eating a lot of snow. The temperature and amount of water can irritate the stomach, causing vomiting or diarrhea. Although your dog will probably feel better once this is all said and done, you should stop your dog from eating so much snow that it feels sick.
The real danger you need to be concerned about with snow and your dogs is whether unhealthy material is concealed within the snow your dog is ingesting. Piles of snow on the side of the road or sidewalk, for example, may contain salt and chemical de-icers that can make your dog very sick if they eat even a small amount. Snow can also contain animal feces loaded with bacteria and viral diseases.
Additionally, debris tends to get mixed in with snow, especially during the early and later parts of winter. Twigs, rocks, plants and other natural materials may be lurking beneath the surface, out of sight, and can be choking hazards. Your dog may ingest some of these items if it is happily munching away.
For these reasons, you should be vigilant about when and where your dog is allowed to eat snow. Fresh snow in your backyard is probably okay, as long as there isn’t a ton of debris mixed into it. However, snow piles near the street and piles in other public areas like the park are probably not as safe due to the chemicals and materials mixed in from foot traffic.
If your dog does eat snow and suddenly appears to be sick, vomiting, shaking or acting lethargic, seek veterinary help immediately. It may have eaten something toxic and will require assistance getting the material out of its system.
Be cautious and have fun
Remember, if your pooch decides to munch on a snowball, there’s no need to be alarmed. But always keep an eye on your pets while they’re outside to make sure they don’t get into snow or other materials that can make them sick. And, don’t forget to have fun!
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan