Why Do Dogs Eat Snow? 6 Reasons Why They Do It

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why do dogs eat snow

Don’t worry if your dogs eat snow. They do it out of curiosity or simply for the taste of it. Read further to learn more about why do dogs eat snow and how safe it is for them.

Why Do Dogs Eat Snow?

Below you will find 5 reasons why your dog might eat snow.

1. Dogs Are Curious

If you have dogs, you will find that they like to explore the world using their mouth. And if they are fascinated by anything, they will first put it in their mouths.

Your furry friends love to play with the snow using their mouths out of curiosity.

2. Dogs Love the Taste Of Snow

Your dog might like how the snow tastes. Sometimes your dogs may not like the taste of water you have put for them in their bowl, especially if it has stayed on the bowl for a couple of days. Therefore, your dog might eat snow since it’s enjoying the taste of fresh water.

So make sure that your furry friend always has fresh water from a clean source.

3. Your Dog Might Be Dehydrated

Always remember that snow is just frozen water. So if you find that your dog loves eating it, it might be thirsty. Most pet owners might think that just because it is cold, their pets might not need water.

On the contrary, cold air is just as dehydrating as hot air. The indoor heating that we have during winter causes dehydration. Stomach upsets also cause dehydration.

If your dog is dehydrated, you can give it an electrolyte drink or high regular clean water. If you think your dog is severely dehydrated, then you can take it to see the vet.

Here are some of the signs that show that your dog is dehydrated:

Signs of dehydration

  • Thick saliva
  • Sunken eyes
  • Dry nose and gums
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Skin elasticity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Extreme panting

4. Genetics

This has not been scientifically proven, but some experts believe that dogs with arctic ancestors ate snow to survive.

In arctic conditions, water is always frozen, and it’s the only way dogs can get hydrated. So arctic canines have to eat ice to stay hydrated.

 If this is the case, then snow eating is an innate behavior passed down through genetics.

5. Self-Medication

Dogs can sometimes self-medicate. If you see your dog eating snow to make themselves sick on purpose, they might be trying to get something out of their system. It might be a parasite or a stomach bug.

When it’s not winter, dogs self-medicate with grass. However, during winter, the grass is covered by snow. When taken in large quantities, snow can cause the dog to vomit.

If your dog has a stomach bug, it might go away on its own. However, if they have a parasite, you might need to visit your vet for them to prescribe anti-parasitic medication 

Signs of stomach bug

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Gagging after drinking or eating anything

Signs of internal parasite

  • Bum scooting
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Dull coat
  • Distended abdomen

6. When Your Dog Has Psychological Issues

If you notice that your dog is eating snow compulsively, then it might have obsessive-compulsive disorder[1]. In addition, if your dog is often anxious or has a phobia, it might eat snow to soothe itself.

Research[2] shows that some breeds, such as German Shepherds and Border Collies, are more prone to obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Therefore, if your dog has OCD, please do not ignore it cannot go away on its own. You can look up how to treat OCD for your dog at home or see a behaviorist.

Is It Safe for Your Dogs to Eat Snow?

Snow is very safe for your dogs. However, if they eat it in large quantities, it might harm your dogs and cause them serious problems.

So ensure that your dogs don’t overindulge. Also, remember that there might be hazardous things hidden in the snow that might cause harm to your dogs.

Some of the potential dangers of your dog eating snow include:

Hypothermia

Snow is cold water. So if your dog eats too much of it, it will lower its body temperature, which results in hypothermia.

Signs of Hypothermia

  • Looking pale
  • Shaking
  • Falling unconscious
  • Stiff muscles
  • Shallow breathing
  • Inaudible heartbeat
  • Dilated pupils

If you notice any of these signs on your dogs, you have to see a vet for proper thermal insulation treatments, IV liquids, and oxygen in some cases.

Gastric upset

This happens when your dog has a sensitive stomach due to prior allergies or other issues. Huge quantities of snow might cause your dogs to vomit, have a tummy ache, or have diarrhea.

You should not worry much about this. The dog will return to its normal state when the snow is entirely out of its system.

Suppose you notice that your dog keeps getting unwell after taking the snow. The snow might have something toxic, and you should ensure that your dog stays away from it.

Snow Might Contain Harmful Chemicals

If your dogs have eaten snow from public areas such as streets, they might have ingested dangerous chemicals such as deicers and rock salt. These substances are used on the roads to keep pedestrians and vehicles from slipping and having accidents.

If your dog ingests rock salt, its blood will have a high concentration of sodium. Even in tiny amounts, it causes extreme dehydration and thirst in dogs. It also causes exhaustion, vomiting, seizures, and drooling.

If you think your furry friend has ingested rock salt, take it to the vet immediately for blood stabilizing treatment to avoid permanent kidney damage.

Antifreeze or deicers have high levels of ethylene glycol, which is very poisonous. However, there is an antidote that only works within 8 to 12 hours after ingestion.

So look out for the following signs and seek veterinary help as soon as possible:

  • A speedy heart rate
  • Drunk walking
  • Drooling Seizures
  • Excessive thirst
  • Urination
  • Panting
  • Vomiting

After 36 to 72 hours of a dog ingesting antifreeze, they will begin to experience fatal kidney failure and might go into a coma.

Therefore, it is essential to do your best and keep your dog away from public spaces when it’s snowing.

Even when you know they won’t eat the snow, the poisonous snow might get stuck in its paws which it might lick off later. Ensure that you clean your dog’s feet after they have played on snow in public places.

Even the snow in your garden might be poisonous. Your garden might have pesticides such as metaldehyde and disulfoton that are highly poisonous to dogs. These substances cause seizures, vomiting, collapsing, and even death in dogs.

Avoid using these substances in your garden if you have a dog. You can instead look for dog-safe pesticides. But if your dog ingests them, you need to take them to the vet immediately for antidotal treatment.

Are Dogs Okay Around Snow?

Dogs are okay with snow as much as humans are. However, always make sure that they are always supervised to ensure safety and not consume excess.

Also, do not let your dog place or eat snow from public places as it could contain harmful chemicals that may be fatal for your furry friend.

How Do I Stop My Dog from Eating Snow?

Dogs need positive reinforcement and firm discipline when teaching them not to eat something. Eating snow is not any different.

You can teach them to ‘leave’ or ‘stop’ when eating snow. If your dog does not respond to the command, you can engage it in a game instead of focusing on eating the snow.

If you realize that they cannot stop, keep them indoors as much as you can till the snow season is over.

Will Eating Snow Hurt My Dogs?

Eating snow in small quantities will not hurt your dog. However, if they eat a lot of it, it might cause hypothermia. You may also want to keep your dog away from the snow in public places to avoid it eating contaminated snow.

Snow in public places often has rock salt and deicers, which are potentially very harmful to dogs.

The Bottom Line

So, why do dogs eat snow? As earlier discussed, some of the reasons include dehydration, canine curiosity, and genetics. 

Snow is relatively safe for dogs to eat. However, they should eat it in small quantities to avoid complications.

Please keep your dog away from public places when it’s snowing to avoid them ingesting rock salt and deicers that are very poisonous.

If you have a garden, ensure that you use pesticides safe for dogs to keep the dogs safe when they ingest snow from your garden.

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Author
Diana Nadim
My name is Diana, a travel enthusiast, and a pet lover who believes that our animal friends deserve the best. I'm passionate about the well-being of animals, big or small. Through writing, I offer practical and helpful advice backed by research. I provide sources to the research data I find to ensure my readers always get the best and most accurate knowledge and information on the internet.

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