This time of year, you can find most of us bundled up before a fireplace, snuggling under the covers, or drinking something hot and steamy. However, our best canine friends still need to go outside periodically (and maybe some of us also enjoy a good romp in the snow or winter hike!). Of course, we know how to protect ourselves and keep warm during these blustery adventures, but what about our pets?
At Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital, we want to highlight how important winter paw care is this time of year. While your dog’s dogs can seem pretty resilient, there are certain precautions you should take to ensure your pet’s safety and comfort.
Winter Paw Care
Exposed to the elements, a dog’s sensitive paws are at risk for drying, cracking, and picking up toxic chemicals that are used to treat roads and sidewalks. Antifreeze, salt, and other deicers are all toxic to dogs and can cause major problems if ingested.
Luckily, there are some things you can do to prep your dog’s paws for rough weather:
- Check the paws regularly for drying and cracking.
- Ensure good grooming, as long hair between the toes can collect debris, antifreeze, or other chemicals. Trim long toe hairs regularly.
- Keep nails short to minimize trauma to sensitive pads.
- Before going out, apply a thin layer of paw pad salve or Bag Balm to coat and protect the pads.
- Immediately after coming inside, soak your dog’s paws in warm water; dry well.
The Boot Dilemma
In addition to basic winter paw care, some people also swear by booties for their dog’s feet. While there’s some controversy about their usefulness, they may be a good option if you’re going on long runs or hikes with your dog or if you’re hunting or participating in other winter sports. In general, booties protect the paws and pads by keeping them dry and preventing exposure to ice and toxic chemicals. Also consider the following:
- Fit is imperative. Make sure the boot fits properly; you may need to try a few different styles and brands before finding the right product. Boots should be snug enough to stay on, but not so tight as to compromise circulation.
- Practice makes perfect. After finding the right fit, allow your dog time to get used to wearing their new boots. Be patient, stay positive, and keep boot-wearing sessions short and successful. Move on to longer periods of time once your dog becomes more accustomed to the boots.
The Nitty Gritty
Dogs are just as susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia as humans, so be sure to pay attention to your pet in cold temperatures. Use common sense about how long or short your walks should be, and look for signs of hypothermia (e.g., shivering, anxiety, moving slowly).
Winter can be tough on our pets, especially if they have other health conditions or are aging. With good winter paw care, your pet can have a safe, comfortable, and healthy winter season.
If you have additional questions about winter paw care, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our team is always here to help!