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If you've ever taken your dog out in the snow, chances are that they sneaked a lick (or a chomp) of the cold stuff. But why do dogs eat snow? And is it safe? If you've ever been concerned that your dog ate snow, here's what you need to know.
Why Do Dogs Eat Snow?
Only dogs know for certain why they enjoy eating snow, but there are several possible reasons for the behavior:
- They're thirsty: Unless you've just filled your pup's water bowl, their water might not be the freshest. But it doesn't get much fresher or cleaner than newly fallen snow.
- It's in their DNA: Before dogs were domesticated, their ancestors in colder climates often had to rely on eating snow to hydrate. It is possible that that innate behavior still exists coded in their DNA thousands of years later.
- They have a health condition: If your pooch eats snow obsessively, check with your veterinarian. It could be a sign of Cushing's disease or thyroid or kidney problems, says Petful. PetHelpful adds that some dogs eat snow for the same reason they eat grass: to induce vomiting in order to settle an upset stomach.
- They just like it: It's probably curiosity that first prompts a dog to nibble on snow. Whether it's the taste, the texture or the cold sensation, something about that first bite provides enough pleasure to encourage them to keep doing it.
Is It Safe for Dogs to Eat Snow?
As long as the snow is clean, it's safe for dogs to eat in small quantities. The danger comes primarily from toxic substances, such as ice melt or antifreeze, that might contaminate the snow. And eating snow in large quantities could dangerously lower your dog's body temperature.
Another danger is that your dog might bite down on or consume harmful objects, such as sticks, rocks or trash that's buried beneath the snow. These could break teeth, cause choking or, if swallowed, cause intestinal damage or blockage that could necessitate surgery.
Never let your dog eat dirty, discolored or partially melted snow, or snow that covers roads, sidewalks or other heavily trafficked areas. And under no circumstances should you allow your dog to eat snow that's been driven on or piled up by a snowplow. If your dog ate snow that gives you cause for concern, give your vet a call.
How to Discourage Your Dog From Eating Snow
It might be impossible to prevent dogs from eating snow entirely, but here are a few things you can do to discourage your dog from turning the next snowfall into a buffet:
- Provide them with plenty of clean drinking water that you refresh regularly.
- Use a leash when walking your dog in the winter. Try to avoid snow, especially puddles of melted snow, as these are more likely to contain chemicals.
- Bring a toy or treats on your walk to distract your dog from the snow.
- Either put booties on your dog when going out or thoroughly clean their paws when they return inside from the snow.
It's normal for dogs to enjoy noshing on snow once in a while. Just remember that it's up to you, as a pet parent, to make sure they don't consume anything harmful along with the snow. Of course, despite your best efforts, your dog might find a way of eating something they shouldn't. If this happens, don't panic. Instead, seek your vet's opinion.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet lover, freelance writer and novelist. She currently lives in the Ozarks with her husband and their gaggle of four-footed dependents, where she enjoys watching a wide array of wild animals in her back yard while drinking her morning coffee.