With the winter weather here, we swap out our front hall closet for big winter coats, thick mittens and warm boots, but what about our pooches?
Winter can be a hard time of year for dogs in Northern climates. Exposure to cold weather and toxic chemicals can wreck havoc on your dog’s paw pads leading to drying, cracking, chemical burns and even frostbite. Here are a few tips on how you can keep your dog’s paws happy and healthy this winter.
Before you head out with your pooch, it’s important to make sure that their paws are properly groomed. If your dog has long hair, trim the hair between the paw pads, until it is even with the pads. This will prevent ice balls from developing between the paw pads and causing discomfort. The paw hair can also hold onto some of the salt and begin to irritate the sides of the paw pads.
Keeping your dog’s nails trimmed is essential in the winter, as long nails can force the toes to separate, leaving the chance for snow and ice to accumulate between the paw pads.
If your dog’s paws are irritated by the salt, they may begin to lick them, potentially ingesting harmful chemicals. For your own home, use pet-friendly ice melts whenever possible.
Back when I worked in a dog-friendly office, my boss had a great tip: Before you head out on your walk, place a shallow bowl of warm water and a soft cloth ready by the door. When you come back, wash the salt, debris and any protective balms off your dog’s paws and pat them dry. This will also keep them from tracking it through the house.
Keep Walks Short
Just like us, dogs are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite when left out in the cold for long periods of time. In the winter, it’s best to take frequent short walks or bathroom breaks, rather than a single long walk. I notice that when the weather is below freezing, Whiskey generally wants to go back in early anyways. He has been known to go to the door, see a gust of snow and ran back inside.
Dog booties may look silly (it took me awhile to get used to them), but they really are a great way to protect your dog’s paws. Your dog may not like wearing them at first, but with time and patience, they will come around. To get Whiskey used to wearing them, I started by having him wear them around the house until he got comfortable walking in them. Now he associates them with good things – like going for a walk.
Not only are they good for protecting them from salt, chemicals and ice ball formations, but also from cutting their pads on sharp objects that may be hidden under the snow like broken glass or nails. Whiskey’s paws get very cold quickly during the winter, and I find that the booties also help to keep in some of the body heat.
Another option, is to apply a balm to the pads before you head out, such as PawPro, Mucher’s Secret and Paw De-icer. It is recommended that you wash these off after each walk and then reapply when you go out the next time. On long walks, they can wear off over time.
Be sure to check your dog’s paws regularly for any signs of injury, including cracks in the pads or redness between the toes. If you discover that they have an injury or signs of irritation, contact your veterinarian.
Whiskey doesn’t seem to mind winter too much for one main reason – more cuddle time! It seems I can’t sit on the couch or the bed without him burrowing in to stay warm. It’s hard to turn down a snuggle buddy who is this cute.