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Melting Snow Puts Dogs at Risk of Electric Shock, Experts Warn

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If you have a dog, chances are you've already made sure your furry friend is staying warm and well-fed during the cold winter months. But are you prepared to protect Fido from being electrocuted this season?

Electric shock is probably the last concern on dog owners' minds as they walk their precious pooches on the slushy sidewalks. But judging by recent New York news, it's not something to be taken lightly. As the snow begins to melt in New York, several New York City pet owners have reported their dogs getting shocked by stray voltage on the sidewalks, according to WNYC — and New York is not alone in this risk.

And New York is not alone with this risk. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), all pet owners should be taking steps to protect their pup from outdoor voltage shocks — especially during the wintertime. AKC says these voltage shocks are due to “contact voltage,” which is an electrical fault sending stray voltage around metal objects like streetlight poles, manhole covers, sewage grates, traffic signals, and junction boxes. So if a dog comes in contact with one of these everyday objects, it could be seriously injured by a shock. Even worse? The electricity can even be transferred via the actual sidewalks themselves.

The voltage shocks are caused by melting snow — but not by itself. “Pure water by itself does not conduct electricity," explained Mark Voigtsberger, president of UTGIS, a company that does utility and municipal inspections. "However, if there’s even a little road salt or antifreeze in the water, the chemical reaction makes the snow or slush ‘energized.’”

Yikes! Not the kind of energy we want to expose our lovable pups to, that's for sure. It's no wonder that dogs are most at risk for this particular type of shock from December to February. Luckily, the AKC has some super helpful tips on how to prevent this scary situation from happening.

How to Protect Your Dog From Voltage Shocks

  1. Check out the bottoms of light poles and signs to see if there's any melted snow. This doesn't always mean there's contact voltage, but it's a distinct possibility. Regardless of the presence of snow, avoid any metal surfaces you see.

  2. If you think your dog did get shocked, don't touch your pet or the ground. Instead, move your pup away from the spot calmly and quickly, using a non-metal leash.

  3. Keep a close eye on other dogs around the area. Ask other dog owners in the area if their pooch has been acting strangely while walking outside.

  4. Report any and all suspected voltage shocks to 911 or your public utility agency. It's worth an official investigation, in which the area will be tested with a voltmeter.

  5. Train your dog to stay away from all electrical infrastructure. You can use positive training techniques, like keeping treats in your pocket to change their behavior. Ideally, you'll stop the problem before it even starts!

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