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Why Do Dogs Eat Snow?

Why Do Dogs Eat Snow?

Depending on where you live, snow will either be a frequent sight or a rare occurrence that only appears once a year. For those of us that don’t live in a cold climate, when winter rolls around we are all hoping for a white Christmas. When it finally arrives, we rush outside to enjoy the snow and dogs are often not far behind. They seem to enjoy playing in the snow as much as we do, but unlike us, dogs eat snow too! 

Maybe this isn’t so surprising. Dogs are undoubtedly food lovers and not only do they devour meat and dog biscuits, but they often sneak human food into their dog bowls. However, they seem to have a fascination with eating natural elements, and snow is one of them. Although it is a strange habit, it’s likely that if you live in an area that experiences snowfall, then your pet pooch will have eaten snow before. 

But why do dogs eat snow? There are many plausible theories offered by animal experts as to why our dogs have this odd habit. It could be due to pure fascination. Others put it down to dogs’ wild instincts and some even say it can highlight more serious medical problems. 

Dogs Are Fascinated by Snow

The first reason why dogs eat snow is simple. They are curious creatures and want to investigate this unique element. Snow is uncommon in some parts of the world, and so when it appears dogs want to experience it. As humans, we can definitely relate to this. When it snows, people of all ages want to go outside, play in the snow and enjoy this rare occurrence. So why should it be any different for dogs?

Most of us ate snow when we were younger (whether we like to admit it or not)! Children are often curious to know what snow tastes like and whether it is as good as it looks. Dogs are no different. They too look at this natural substance that has suddenly appeared on the ground overnight and are curious to learn how it tastes. It’s a different and often new experience for dogs, and one which is exciting and entertaining. As dog owners, we all know that our pups are constantly searching for ways to amuse themselves and make every opportunity fun and playful. Eating snow is another means by which dogs can enjoy themselves and express their curious nature.

Feeling Thirsty

We’re all aware of the importance of keeping dogs well-hydrated during the hot summer months. In summer, dog owners are constantly refilling water bowls, and ensuring that their pet pooches aren’t stuck in enclosed spaces without ventilation. This is due to the risks of dogs overheating and becoming dangerously dehydrated. It’s common, therefore, for dogs to drink a lot more water in warm months. However, dogs can also suffer from serious dehydration in the winter months if they are not carefully looked after. This may be surprising since thirst is not usually associated with cool, crisp weather, but the extremely dry conditions of winter can be just as harmful as in the summer months. When the air is dry and lacking humidity, such as when it snows, dogs can get seriously dehydrated. Therefore, if your dog is eating snow, it could be because he is trying to consume some water to hydrate himself.

If you notice that your dog is eating a lot of snow, check his water bowl to see if it’s being topped up regularly with clean water. Your pup could simply be thirsty and it’s easy in winter months for owners to forget to fill up water dishes as regularly as in the summer. Since dogs dehydrate quicker than us, they need to take regular gulps of water throughout the day. Make sure that your dog is drinking enough water so that he can be his regular, happy self, and he’ll soon stop consuming snow!

Snow Simply Tastes Great

Have you ever craved snow-cones topped with a delicious sauce? Or have you ever eaten one too many ice-cream sandwiches and popsicles? These cravings are considered normal for humans, and snow has the same appeal to dogs as snow-cones do to us!

You may say that there is a big difference between eating snow and consuming a snow-cone. But aside from the delicious toppings we cover snow-cones with, it’s essentially the same texture and taste as snow. For humans, there’s a certain charm to this cold treat, and we absolutely love eating it.

Although we may find it strange to imagine dogs eating snow due to the simple fact that they like it, if we compare it to our cravings, we can begin to understand why dogs enjoy it so much. Snow is very refreshing and a lot of dogs actually seem to like the sensation of cold snow melting in their mouths. For dogs, it’s such a rarity to even see snow, let alone eat it. When canines have the opportunity to consume snow, they relish it! So long as your dog doesn’t overeat snow, then letting him enjoy it in small amounts is perfectly fine, especially if snow something that he finds delicious.

Instinctive Behaviour

You may own a dog that seems obsessed with snow, almost to the point that you wonder if eating snow is a habit that has been ingrained in your pooch from birth. Well, that actually may be the case! Before dogs were domesticated by humans, they were wild animals who had to endure brutal seasonal changes, and this meant that they had to adapt to the varying food and water sources. Many water sources freeze over in winter, such as lakes, so in the past, wild dogs would resort to getting a small amount of liquid from consuming snow. If you own a dog that is predisposed to live and thrive in cold climates then you may find that they consume more snow than other canines due to their instinctual habits. Take the German Shepherd breed for example. This dog is built for cold weather and will sleep outdoors without shelter, even if it is raining or snowing. They are used to having limited water sources in the harsh winter months, so for this reason they will eat snow as they are instinctively built to do so. 

Eating Snow Could Be a Sign of Disease

So, what if your dog always has a full water bowl, and isn’t ancestrally predisposed to eat snow and live in cold climates? In this case, there could be a more serious underlying issue behind this seemingly innocent habit of eating snow. Vets say that if a canine is eating snow, then it could be due to a medical condition. A dog who has a thyroid or kidney disease may be eating snow due to thirst, as thirstiness is a common symptom of these two diseases. If you notice your dog constantly consuming snow, give him some water, and watch what he does. If your pup laps up the water and his thirst is still not sated, then it’s likely your dog has a condition that needs to be checked out by a vet.

Another disease that would increase the likelihood of your dog eating snow is Cushing’s disease. Although less well-known, this disease is common in hounds and occurs when the body produces too much cortisol. This hormone is super important in maintaining regular levels of blood sugar and weight. Your dog eating a lot of snow is a sign of this disease but there are others to look out for. If your dog also appears to be drinking more water than usual, is urinating more frequently, and has a coat that seems to be thinning, get him checked out by your vet immediately. All of these habits are symptoms of this dangerous disease.

It’s safe to say that constant eating of snow is often the first sign for many dog-owners of underlying health issues that their pup has. It’s important, therefore, that you keep an eye on your dog when he is playing in the snow, to check that he isn’t eating an unhealthy amount of this natural substance. If he is, then it could be an indicator that your furry friend is unwell.

Is it Safe For Dogs to Eat Snow?

So, is it safe to let your dog consume snow? Many people believe that, because snow is a natural element, then of course it’s safe. We let dogs drink from, and play in lakes and rivers, so why wouldn’t we let them consume snow? If your dog eats a small amount of snow, then it’s certainly not the end of the world. Your pooch will be fine if he eats a mouthful or two. However, if your dog is eating too much snow, then things can start to become problematic for him and therefore, for you. When dogs overeat snow, this can lead to stomach issues like diarrhoea. This is because snow can mix with nasty chemicals and waste on the ground. Therefore, when your dog ingests snow, he is also consuming these other substances that are filled with horrible bacteria. Yuck!

Not only this, if snow is very thick, it can disguise foreign objects which could be hidden within it, such as sharp rocks and twigs. If your dog ingests these, they can not only damage his insides, but they are also a choking hazard.

Sometimes, grit salt is used on icy roads, and this can get mixed in with snow. If dogs eat too much of this strong salt, it can have very serious effects on their bodies, causing them to feel tired and again, have an upset stomach. More serious issues that come from eating too much snow are kidney stones and hypothermia. If ingested, the temperature of snow will lower your dog’s core body temperature, which can be seriously fatal if it leads him to become unwell with hypothermia.

Considering this, if your dog is eating snow and begins to display symptoms such as shortness of breath, tiredness, shaking, or vomiting, then remove him from the snowy environment and seek veterinary attention immediately. Your dog has likely ingested something that he shouldn’t have, and it’s causing him problems.

How to Stop Your Dog from Eating Snow

You may be reading this and thinking, “how can I stop my dog from eating snow?” If you live in an area that experiences heavy snowfall, it can be difficult to avoid coming into contact with it. We know that dogs are inquisitive and want to taste most food that they see. When they want to do something, it can sometimes be hard to control them and prevent them from misbehaving. So here are a few tips to prevent your dog from consuming snow. 

First, ensure that he drinks some clean water before going on a walk. This way, he will feel hydrated when outside, and won’t be as tempted to eat snow in case he needs a refreshing gulp of liquid. Another idea is to stick to paved walking areas, that are more likely to be cleared of snow. There will be fewer temptations for your dog to eat it, as it won’t be as visible. If your dog is highly inquisitive, it could be a good idea to keep him on a leash when walking in the snowier season, so that you can control your pup’s movements more easily, and stop him from eating snow if he starts to do so. The main thing to remember is to be mindful and watchful of your dog, and not worry too much! Eating snow has its risks, but if you know your dog is healthy, then a little snow won’t hurt. Just make sure that your furry friend doesn’t overeat snow, and you and your pup should be able to enjoy the beautiful winter wonderland setting together.