What to do if Your Dog Falls Through Ice

winter_dogYou might be thinking about taking Rover on an extra long walk as Fort Collins thaws out from last week’s frigid temperatures, but please, keep him on a leash.

For one, it’s the law. But it’s also prime time for thin ice on ponds and other bodies of water as the city rebounds from a bout of negative temperatures. In Denver, authorities rescued at least two dogs after they fell through ice this weekend, and Poudre Fire Authority has taken part in at least eight ice rescues that involved a dog since 2012.

Here’s what to do if your dog gets into cold water.


1. Call 911.

Dispatchers will send PFA firefighters to your location to rescue your pet.


2. Don’t go in after him. Seriously, don’t.

“If the ice isn’t strong enough to hold a dog, it’s not going to be strong enough to hold a person,” PFA Capt. Jon McKeon said.

When you fall through the ice, hypothermia is a dangerous possibility, and then the firefighters will have to rescue you and your dog.


3. Sit tight while the firefighters do their thing.

Follow your dog’s lead: “Dogs do a pretty good job of holding themselves tight until we can get to them,” McKeon said.

At least one rescuer tethered to a rope and wearing protective gear will walk — and then crawl — out to the dog, swimming if the ice breaks. Then the rescuer will attach an ice rescue sling to the dog and tow him in.

Sometimes the rescued dog needs medical treatment, and sometimes he just needs a good toweling off and a treat. Signs of hypothermia in dogs include paleness and strong shivering followed by listlessness. A dog’s tail, tips of ears, scrotum and foot pads are particularly vulnerable to frostbite, according to Pet MD.


4. Avoid a repeat rescue by keeping your dog on a leash no matter what.

PFA doesn’t award frequent flyer miles, so keep that leash in a vice grip. Fort Collins’ leash law applies to all city parks and natural areas.

After all, even if your dog is usually Miss Manners, it just takes one distraction to lead her astray.

“A common theme is ‘geese on the ice,’ ” McKeon said.

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