Monday 11th December 2017


With temperatures dropping as Scotland heads into the winter months, Denis O. Brown Insurance Brokers, Scotland’s Agricultural & Rural Specialists, have some advice for those taking their dogs out into the countryside at this time of year.



Low light is an issue at this time, so dogs and owners should be visible where possible especially in rural areas where there is less street lighting. The best advice is for both owner and dog to wear high-visibility clothing – flashing lights that attach to collars and leads, which are re-chargable using a USB, are available to buy.



Decayed fruit falling from trees can be an issue, as wind fall fruit can be particularly harmful if eaten in large quantities, while certain fruits with large stones can be swallowed whole and causes blockages to the guts. Pine cones cause similar problems if eaten and conkers are poisonous to dogs and can make them very ill, so areas with a lot of conker producing trees are best avoided. Also, some winter plants such as Mistletoe produce berries which are poisonous to show, so owners should be aware of what their dog is picking up and eating.

More of an indoor danger, but dried fruits and chocolate found in many festive foods can be toxic. Again, they can cause organ failure and be fatal if enough is ingested and left in treated.



Winter conditions can be dangerous as frozen bodies of water may appear strong enough to support the weight of a dog but often it is only the surface that is frozen. Risks of shock, hypothermia and drowning are the same for dogs as well as people when falling into frozen water. Similarly, in snowy conditions certain features of the landscape can become obscured. Cornices can collapse under too much weight and steep drops can be camouflaged. If in doubt the dog should always be kept on a lead.  



Many farmers move their livestock down from hills in the autumn. Dog walkers should be aware that there may be farm animals where previously there was an open field. Cows can be dangerous especially if they have calves. If possible, it is best to avoid going through a cow field. It is an offence to allow your dog to worry livestock and farmers do have the right to shoot an animal they feel is threatening their stock. Dogs and their owners should always take note of signage and follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (“Know Before You Go”). Gates should be left as they were found and dogs should never be walked through an arable field unless there is a clear path. Dogs must always be either on a short lead or under close and proper control.



Parasite protection should be kept up to date all year round. There are now 4 types of tick in the UK some of which can carry and transmit diseases such as Babesiosis and Lyme disease. Autumn is the most common time of year for ticks due to the often warm, wet conditions. Perthshire and the Highlands have been particularly bad the last few years. Dog owners should thoroughly check their pets after every walk for any cuts, scrapes or parasites and act as required. Never try to remove the tick with tweezers or to burn or suffocate the tick. It is important to remove all the parts of the tick including the head and mouth. Ticks can be removed properly with special plastic tick hooks and appropriate parasite protection should be discussed with a vet.


6.     WRAP UP!

Short coated breed such as Whippets, Greyhounds and Staffordshire Bull Terriers will feel the cold and a suitable dog coat should be used when walking these breeds in colder weather. All dogs would benefit from a lightweight waterproof in wet conditions. A wet coat is less insulating and prolonged exposure to low temperatures can increase the risk of hypothermia. Dogs should be well dried after autumn/winter walks. Muddy paws should be washed off and paws should be well washed to remove any salt/grit in winter. Certain breeds with hairier feet can be prone to snow balling between the toes. Is it important to remove these little balls as they can irritate the delicate skin between the pads and lead to infection. For dogs who are likely to be in frozen conditions for prolonged periods (e.g. mountain rescue dogs or ski patrol) can wear special boots to protect them from frost bite.  



Since April 2016 it has been the law that all dogs over the age of 8 weeks of age must have a microchip implanted. Not only this but the registered details must be kept up to date or owners face a hefty fine. Dogs frequently become lost when out walking, particularly in rural areas. Microchip details should be kept up-to-date so that if anything should happen, dog and owner can be reunited as quickly as possible. It’s also think it is important to know where the closest vet surgery is that provides 24 hour cover if away from home.



It is important that dog owners pick up after their pets no matter where they are, even in the seemingly middle of nowhere. Dog faeces can spread diseases and wherever possible should be picked up and deposited into the nearest bin.