Brrrr! When the temperatures start dropping, just thinking about taking Fido for his nightly walk is enough to make you shiver. As part of your Fido winter walking preparation, you grab your heavy coat and boots, wrap your scarf around your head so many times you’re in danger of being mistaken for a mummy, and make sure you’ve got a hat and some mittens before you head out with your pup’s leash firmly in hand. While it is easy for us to bundle up against the cold, it’s not so simple for our pooches. Yes, most dogs do boast of some pretty impressive natural fur coats which help to stave off the cold, and some owners like to add an extra layer of protection for their dogs by outfitting them in the latest winter fashions. But one area of our dogs’ bodies often gets overlooked during winter walks—their feet! Since our dogs’ paw pads are extremely sensitive and prone to painful cuts, tears, and even frostbite, they warrant a little special attention when the temperatures outside start to plummet. What can be done to protect your dog’s feet during winter?
The Problems Facing Doggy Feet in Winter
There is no doubt that the elements commonly associated with winter such as wind, snow, sleet, and rain can damage your dog’s paw pads. Couple that with extremely dry air, and you’ve got a recipe for everything from frostbite to chapped skin and cracked and bleeding paw pads and more. But it’s not just the winter weather conditions that prove hazardous for our dogs. Since one of the most common problems people face in winter is falling on ice, chemical and natural de-icers and sand are used to provide some traction and melt ice buildup. However, many of these items are extremely caustic and eat away at the tender skin on your dog’s paw pads. Salt can be particularly painful and even leave burns your dog’s tender skin.
But it’s not just external irritants we need to be concerned about. Some de-icing agents can be toxic to dogs if ingested. Road salt is quite attractive to pooches since most are drawn to the briny taste of it. However, this salty substance was not designed to be ingested and can make your dog very sick.
Top Tips to Keep Fido’s Feet Healthy in Winter
Fido definitely won’t want to miss out on his walks just because it is winter, so it’s up to us to come up with a plan of attack that ensures he gets to enjoy his walks and keep his feet in tiptop form at the same time.
Here is a list of some top tips to keep your pooch’s feet healthy in winter:
Use a humidifier at home.
One of the issues that exacerbates problems with paw pads is moving from the warm dry air of your home into the cold dry air outside in the winter months. You can help to prevent this problem from causing cracked and raw skin by making use of a humidifier at home. Humidifiers add moisture back into the air, providing relief and comfort for skin and hair during the winter months. This will benefit your dog’s feet, but it will also benefit you as well!
Wipe and dry your dog’s feet as soon as you enter your house.
If Fido likes his feet “au naturel” on walks, he is going to come into contact with substances that can cause painful damage to the delicate skin on his paw pads. The best way to prevent this is to wash his paws with warm, soapy water then dry them thoroughly as soon as he enters the house. For an added layer of protection, you can massage petroleum jelly into the skin or make use of a paw protectant balm which is sold at many high quality pet retailers or veterinary clinics.
Keep hair short on the feet to prevent ice accumulation.
If your dog is of the long haired sort, you know how easily ice pellets can become embedded in his fur. Excess water in your dog’s skin can lead to a whole host of problems including yeast infections which can be problematic to treat and cure. By keeping the hair on your dog’s feet clipped quite short, you remove any additional hair that ice can attach itself to thus helping to keep your dog’s paws as dry as possible.
Though many dogs will resist this idea entirely and some will flat out refuse to leave the house with them on, it is worth considering adding some booties to your dog’s winter wardrobe repertoire. Booties come in different styles and colors, allowing you to customize your dog’s boots to his coat or collar, but their most compelling factor is the fact that they provide a tangible layer of fabric as protection against things that can cause irritation or damage to your dog’s feet.
If you are considering purchasing some booties for your dog, it is always a good idea to head out to a pet store with Fido in tow. Though they do come in standard sizes, it is important for your dog to try them on in the store to ensure the fit is correct.
Apply a layer of paw protecting balm pre and post walk.
Just as humans benefit from moisturizers during cold weather months, so too do pooches! Today’s high quality pet retailers sell many different emollients and moisturizers designed to protect and soothe doggie paws pre and post walk.
Make use of petroleum jelly.
When all else fails, there is always Vaseline! Designed specifically to act as a barrier between what it is applied on and any outside elements, Vaseline, also known as petroleum jelly, keeps moisture in and irritants out. A win win for your dog!
Stay indoors if the temperature drops too low.
When it comes to cold weather, it is best to observe this motto, “When in doubt, sit it out!” Sometimes it is just too cold outside for man and for man’s beast. Give yourself permission to take a day off and curl up in front of the fire with your best canine pal and a good book and dream of warmer days ahead.
Yes, winter weather can definitely wreak havoc with Fido’s tender tootsies! Follow our top tips to ensure your pup’s paws remain soft and healthy. He will thank you for it!