Why Do Dogs Eat Snow? Is It Safe For Dogs?

It’s winter season, and you’re out on a walk with your pooch. You’re well covered and he’s got some fanciful coat on.

You both love the snow, but he seems more fascinated by it. He sniffs it repeatedly, then gobbles up some before you could react.

Now you’re worried. Technically, snow is frozen water. It is still snow, though, and that doesn’t come under your dog’s feeding requirements.

No nutritionist has ever classified snow under wet foods, or even as a treat. So, it is normal that you’re asking “Why do dogs eat snow?.

This guide will provide sufficient reasons for the behavior, how you can keep your dog from harm, and ways to stop it from eating snow, especially if your pooch has made it a habit. We’ll also explore the possible risks involved.

Why Do Dogs Eat Snow?

Dogs can’t talk, or we would have met one to give us answers on the snow eating behavior (now wouldn’t that be something?)

Left with only human observations, we can make calculated guesses to explain this.

Generally, dogs eat anything their taste buds find edible. Left to their whims, they would eat anything that isn’t repulsive.

Even highly intelligent breeds follow their instincts when it comes to culinary choices. As to whether or not the food is safe for them, that’s up to you to decide.

No doubt, snow does not have a repulsive taste. This could be why dogs are comfortable getting a taste of it.

Like any other thing they eat, the direct answer could just be that dogs eat snow because they love it. 

Why Do Dogs Love Eating Snow?

If you’ve had a snowflake drop and cool on your tongue, you might hazard a guess as to why dogs enjoy eating snow.

Though it has no nutritional value, it likely is that they enjoy the coolness of snow in their mouth, and so they follow instincts and chomp in more.

Their curiosity could also push them towards tasting the snow as a way of exploring nature. 

We can never truly tell, but we figured out that there are a lot of reasons why dogs love to eat snow.

Some of these reasons are obvious, others may come as a surprise.

However, knowing the possible factors that contribute to your dog’s snow eating habits can assist you in understanding and working on it. 

Reasons Why Dogs Love to Eat Snow

Going from all we’ve discussed so far, here are the possible reasons why dogs love eating snow:

1. Curiosity

We love using our hands to explore our environment, to feel the smoothness or roughness of a particular surface.

We also use those hands to feel the snow, by playing with it or watching it melt in our hands. Dogs use their mouths and nose to do this more than their paws.

The nose picks up a scent and their mouth experiences a part of nature.

They could be eating snow because they are curious about the white, fluffy substance filling the environment.

2. Thirst

No one likes stale water, but some pet parents neglect to change the water in the dog’s bowl and it stays for days, giving the dog no desire to drink.

Compare stale water to the freshness of snow. The better choice is a no-brainer. Plus, we assume that dogs don’t get dehydrated during winter, which isn’t true.

While they do get more dehydrated during summer, an active dog can also get thirsty in winter. 

3. Health issues

Some medical conditions like diabetes can make a dog get extremely thirsty.

With no other source of water, the ailing pooch will have no choice but no quench the thirst with snow. Furthermore, your dog could be eating snow as a form of self-medication.

When the stomach is upset, dogs would want to induce vomiting with snow.

Grass leaves are usually what they eat to achieve this, but in the absence of that, snow becomes the alternative. 

4. Entertainment

Sometimes there is no serious reason. Your dog could be eating snow simply because of fun.

Just as we make snowballs and snowmen, dogs sometimes eat snow for the fun of it. 

There are many other possible reasons, but these should suffice.

What is more important is the main question that’s usually in every pet parent’s mind. Is it safe to let your dog eat snow?

Is it Safe for Dogs to Eat Snow?

Beagle Dog Eating Snow

The short answer to this is: It depends. Snow isn’t salt, garlic, or alcohol that are highly toxic for dogs, so a little quantity of it is harmless.

Plus, fresh snow could be as beneficial as water for dogs in that it keeps them hydrated.

As long as your dog eats a little, there’s no need to fret. 

However, some safety measures should be applied. Too much snow can have some repercussions, and there are some dangers to look out for, especially if you live in the city.

In the following section, we’ll look at reasons why snow might be bad for dogs. 

Reasons Why Eating Snow is Bad for Dogs 

Irrespective of some benefits, here are reasons why eating snow is bad for dogs:

1. Body temperature

When your dog eats too much snow, it will affect its body temperature. Snow is cold, and eating it is akin to licking ice blocks.

Overeating snow can make the dog’s temperature get low, resulting in a medical condition known as hypothermia.

The American Kennel Club defines hypothermia as “a dangerous condition that occurs when the core body temperature drops too low.”

It is not a low-risk illness as it can lead to brain damage, heart failure, coma, and death. 

2. Contamination

If you live in an urban area, chances are you know about antifreeze and ice melting substances that are used to keep water from freezing.

These substances are toxic to dogs. Ice melts have salt in them and antifreeze can lead to kidney failure.

Besides those, melting snow can also contain mushrooms which are poisonous to dogs too. Another danger is the rat poisons people use to get rid of rats.

The rodenticides can mix up with the freezing water, posing serious threats for dogs. Let’s not forget dirt that can cause stomach upset. 

3. Sharp objects

Snow on the ground can also conceal sharp objects like sticks, rocks, broken glass, or trash.

These objects could be harmful to the teeth and also cause choking. The swallowed object can damage the intestine as well.

In extreme cases, your dog could end up needing surgery. 

When Should I Worry About My Dog Eating Snow?

Moving forward, how do we know when our dogs have crossed the line between safety and danger when eating snow?

Being observant will help you out, and you should also take some preventive measures.

If you live close to the road, do not let your dog eat snow on the road, sidewalks, or any area with heavy traffic.

Don’t let them eat dirty snow or one with any color other than pure white.

This means you should be wary about mounds of snow that have been on the ground days after a snowfall.

Chances are, they aren’t clean. Melting snow is risky too. 

If your dog is eating snow excessively, it is also a problem. It could either signal strong thirst or that your dog is trying to induce vomit.

Furthermore, don’t ignore any abnormal signs your dog shows after eating snow. Take it to the veterinarian once this happens. 

How to Stop Dogs from Eating Snow

Your pet dog may never stop feeling the need to eat snow and doesn’t see anything wrong with it, so trying to force it to stop would be sending the wrong signals.

Instead, there are ways to tactically discourage it from turning snowballs into snacks. Here are some steps to take:

  • Ensure that the water in its bowl never gets stale. Keep the bowl clean and change the water regularly. Fresh water in your pooch’s bowl will curb it from viewing snow as a better alternative.
  • When you go out on a walk, keep your dog leashed. This would help steer its attention from potentially dangerous snow piles. 
  • Buy a chew toy that would keep your dog’s mouth occupied and distract it from the snow. A handful of treats can do the job as well. 

Why Do Dogs Like Sticks? Dog Behavior Explained

Is eating snow bad for dogs?

A little fresh snow isn’t harmful to dogs, but too much of it can cause health issues. Contaminated and melting snow are also unhealthy for dogs. 

Does eating snow dehydrate dogs?

Snow can serve as water for dogs and keep them hydrated. That said, the salt in some ice-melting substances used on snow can dehydrate dogs and cause other health issues. 

Why do dogs vomit when they eat snow?

Dogs sometimes eat snow to induce vomiting when they have a stomach bug. It might not be a critical issue if your dog vomits when they eat snow, but you should get to a vet as vomiting could also be a sign of toxicity in the dog’s system.

Why do dogs love the snow?

There are many possible reasons why dogs love snow. It could be out of curiosity, for fun, to quench thirst, or explore the environment. 

Do dogs like to eat ice?

Dogs enjoy ice cubes and it could help cool them down, as well as aid with indigestion. However, you should be careful that it doesn’t affect the teeth.

Final Thoughts

Eating snow has its pros and cons, like many other things dogs are likely to chow down.

While you shouldn’t prevent your dog from playing in the snow (and taking in some, of course), keep in mind the risks and stop your dog from overindulging.

Clean water is better than snow, after all.

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Authored By

Ben Pierce

Ben Pierce is a canine behavioral and nutritional specialist, professional dog trainer, and the CEO of Puplore. A former military working dog handler, Ben founded Puplore to provide owners with breed-specific information and to act as a go-to guide to health, nutrition, care, and to help them find the confidence they need to step up to the plate and become the best pup parents they can possibly be. A firm believer in treating all animals with kindness and compassion, and that positive discipline is paramount in achieving a harmonious canine-human relationship, Ben’s former and present careers have enabled him to become a leading light in his chosen profession and business.

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