Winter can be brutal on dog paw pads. Left exposed to the elements and the toxic chemicals in salt and ice melt, your furbaby’s paws are at risk for drying, cracking, frostbite and chemical burns. Lucky, there are products and habits that can lessen the damage and help keep your pup’s paws happy and healthy during the impending (and any future) storms.
There are a number of protective balms available to help protect your dog’s paws, and even some human products can suffice. You can do your own research but we happen to really like Musher’s Secret*. No matter which product you choose, preparation is key. Make sure the paw is ready – especially that your furbaby’s paws are properly prepped. If there is long hair, make sure the hair between the paw pads is short to prevent ice balls forming. Keeping the hair around the paws manicured is also important as if your pup has a log of feathering, the hair should not have contact with the grown either. Keeping nails appropriately trimmed is also important because longer nails cause the paws to splay and a splayed paw allows more snow and ice to accumulate between the paw paws and those ice balls can cause pain or even trauma. Apply a thin even layer just before going out for a wintery walk. After the walk, it will be important to wipe off the paws with a warm washcloth to remove snow, ice and any ice melt from the sidewalks or roads. You can then apply another layer of balm to soothe any irritation and to keep them from drying out if you’d like.
Another good option to protect furbaby paws is dog boots. There are numerous manufacturers and models. Some are more sock like with a Velcro strap and traction, others are more basic allowing a more basic (comfortable) rubber barrier between the paw and the products. Again, it is a matter of personal taste but we happen to really like Pawz*. They come in a variety of sizes, are multi-use and are far more comfortable keeping your furbaby from doing the penguin walk and trying to remove them. Best of all, they are biodegradable. Remember to choose a size that snug enough so it doesn’t fall off but not so tight that it constricts the blood flow to the paw. Please also remember to remove them between walks to allow the skin to breath. We love these at Pets a Go Go and utilize them all year round to prevent or treat tender paws that have played too much.
Of even more concern is the threat from ingesting the deicing products. Dogs may lick their paws or even the boots if they are not removed promptly. If possible, walk off the salty sidewalks (think grass or snow) whenever possible. If you must decide Safe Paw is a common pet-friendly deicer; but natural products such as sand, small stones or even clay (non-clumping) kitty litter are also great bio-friendly alternatives.
Just remember the best protection for your pet is prevention. Dogs left in the cold for long periods of time are at risk for frostbite and even hypothermia. It is not advised that dogs spend multiple hours in the cold. In winter, frequent short walks are better for you and your dog than one single long walk.
*Pets a Go Go carries these and many other high quality products at their 589 North State Road location in Briarcliff Manor.