Caring for Your Dog’s Paws During the Winter

We all know the signs of our own winter skin. Chapped lips. Dry, flaking skin. Cracking feet and fingertips. Now just imagine how much worse it would be if you had to brave winter weather with bare feet and hands.

Just as winter weather is hard on our own skin, it is also tough on our dogs’ paws, which are often uncovered and exposed not only to frigid temperatures, snow, and ice, but also to dangerous de-icing chemicals containing salt or chloride.

Tracy Gillett, a non-practicing veterinarian in Canada, notes, “The winter months can pose some unique challenges for dogs and humans alike but a few simple precautions are all that are needed to keep you both safe and warm. While out and about, be mindful of road and sidewalk salt which can burn tender feet and be painful.”

Protect their paws

Many dog lovers use booties to protect their dog paws on winter walks. “Your dog’s paws may look tough but like bare feet, they’re susceptible to cold weather,” explains Bill Hanner for Snuggy Boots. “Exposure to the elements can dry out your pet’s paw pads and leave them cracked. Plus, the chemicals used to melt snow and ice are toxic and you don’t want your pet licking them off his paws. We recommend dog booties in all types of weather to protect your dog’s paws.”

dog and woman in snow

© iStock Photo / Solovyova

Choose routes carefully

Along with paw protection, cold weather walks can be made safer by choosing a route that is relatively free of hazards found on sidewalks and streets. “Dog booties or special products meant to insulate your pet’s paws against the harmful effects of salt can be helpful but it’s best to avoid these areas if possible,” says Gillett. “Take the opportunity to investigate wooded areas that offer rich sights and smells and lots of protection from wind and salt.”

Peek at their feet

Prior to your walk, take a moment to inspect your dog’s paws for cracks. Trimming fur between the pads can also help prevent painful ice balls from forming between the toes. Paw protection wax, used on dogs involved in winter canine sports such as mushing and skijoring, can protect the pads.

Although the skin on your dog’s paw pads is extremely thick, it is still skin, forming an important barrier against the outside world. Cracks in that barrier leave the door open to trouble. Good paw pad health is more than just a matter of comfort for your dog.

With just a little pre-walk preparation and a watchful eye, you can keep your dog’s paw pads safe and protected this winter. That’s worthy of both a human and a canine high five!

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