Frozen lakes, ponds, and other bodies of water pose many dangerous hazards for you and your dog. Falling through ice can cause hypothermia, organ damage, or drowning. Additionally, ice can cut skin, cause ice burn or frostbite, and cause serious injuries due to slipping and falling. The best way to avoid these frosty hazards is to keep your dog off the ice. However, if you choose to partake in winter activities with your dog or if there’s no way to avoid it, here are a few tips to keep your dog safe on frozen lakes and ponds:
- If you have a lake or pond in your backyard, use a fence or a tie-out leash to prevent your dog from going near the ice while unsupervised.
- Don’t take your dog out on the ice unless it is deemed safe enough to drive a snowmobile on (minimum 5 inches deep). The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources also advises checking the ice depth every 150 feet. For ice fishermen, this means rechecking the ice depth every 150 feet from the shore to your icehouse. For more ice depth safety tips, view the DNR’s website.
- Avoid areas of the ice that indicate it’s unsafe. Signs to look for include dark, slushy, cracked, or seamed ice. Partially submerged items such as a tree branch also mean the surrounding ice is dangerous.
- If your dog has any history of joint pain, stiff limbs, or difficulty walking, DO NOT take them out on the ice.
- Use a non-retractable leash while on the ice to prevent your dog from roaming to unsafe areas. If you tend to take daily walks through wooded areas, it’s also a good idea to use a non-retractable leash since frozen ponds are often concealed by snow and aren’t apparent until you walk on them.
- Prevent your dog from slipping on the ice by investing in dog booties with grippers on the bottom.
- Make your dog walk slowly on the ice. Never allow your dog to jump or run on the ice.
- If you don’t want to let your dog walk to your ice house, you can carry your dog or give them a ride on a sled. However, if you have an energetic dog-be careful! They might pull you and cause you to slip.
- We hope this never happens, but if your dog does fall through the ice, DO NOT go after them. If the ice breaks for your pet, it will also break for you and the situation will be even worse. The safest thing to do is to call 911. While waiting for help to arrive, you can try to reach your pet from a safe surface with a long-reaching stick or leash, but your dog may not “grab hold.” You can also call your dog’s name and encourage him/her to swim. After your pet is rescued, bring him/her to your family veterinarian or nearest animal emergency hospital immediately to be examined and evaluated.
Be safe on the ice and remember, the best prevention is to keep your dog off the ice. If your pet does experience an emergency, both our Oakdale and St. Paul clinics are open 24/7, every day of the year.