Winter weather is well known to wreak havoc on the body. Among other things, the colder temperatures can lead to dry, cracked skin that is uncomfortable or even painful. But imagine having to walking on cold, hard surfaces with that dry, cracked skin. It may seem impossible to consider, but the fact is that your canine companion has to do just that. Cold temperatures, snow and ice can be rough on a dog’s sensitive paws, which can lead to painful health problems if not taken care of.
Winter Paw Care
Unlike cats, who have the option to remain indoors throughout the winter season, dogs must go outside every single day, even on the coldest and stormiest days. Unfortunately, this means that their delicate paws are not only exposed to cold, hard surfaces, they may also be exposed to chemical deicers and ice melt on sidewalks and streets. Fortunately, there are many ways that dog owners can help to protect their furry companion’s paws during the winter season.
Pay attention to sidewalks and streets after fresh snowfall has occurred, and try to avoid as many of the chemical deicers used as possible. You can even choose to buy dog booties that will help protect your dog’s paws both from chemicals on the sidewalks and streets as well as the winter elements.
It is also important to pay attention to the hair that grows between your dog’s pads, and trim it down where necessary. If the hair on your dog’s pads grows too long, it can collect snow and ice during your dog’s walks. This snow and ice can harden and then dig into your dog’s pads, causing pain and sometimes even injury.
After a walk, and even if your dog wore booties, you should always inspect your dog’s paw pads and clean them with warm water in order to remove any chemicals they may have picked up. It is important not to give them enough time to clean their own paws, as the chemicals they may ingest can be highly toxic to them. You can also use this time to carefully inspect for cuts or scrapes and treat these so they do not become infected.
Consider applying a soothing salve, like petroleum jelly, bag balm or something similar to your dog’s paw pads after washing them. Just as you may put on soothing hand lotion throughout the drier winter months, dogs can appreciate a soothing salve that keeps their paw pads feeling soft and protected.
It is also very important to keep your dog’s nails trimmed throughout the winter season. Long nails can lead to splayed feet and spread toes, which can contribute to more snow and ice buildup between their toes. Long nails can also cause a dog to experience sore nail beds, torn nails, hip and back problems and general foot discomfort and pain. Trimming your dog’s nails may not be easy or enjoyable, for either you or your dog, but it can be handled in such a way as to make it as comfortable and easy as possible. When you learn where your dog’s “quick” is and reassure them with soothing words and treats, you can learn to clip a few nails at a time and keep their overall foot care in better shape.
Winter can be a fun and exciting time for dogs, with different sights, sounds and smells to enjoy. By ensuring your dog’s paws are properly cared for throughout this season, you can ensure that they truly enjoy it.