Protecting your pets from the cold

How can I protect my dog's paws from the cold and ice?

Even in the cold winter months – dogs still need to engage in exercise on a daily basis.  Sub-freezing temperatures, however, can make this risky for some pets. In cold enough temperatures, frostbite is a very real concern and can occur more quickly than you think. The harsh contact from the snow and ice can cause painful, chapped, or even burned paw pads. The salt or ‘ice melt’ de-icing substances that are used on roadways and sidewalks can cause irritation and chemical burns on delicate canine paws. Road salt or ‘ice melt’ can also be toxic to dogs if ingested. If it is ingested after your dog licks his fur or paws, vomiting and other systemic problems can occur. If this happens, contact your veterinarian.

Covering the paws is a great option. There are special ‘winter boots’ that you can purchase for your canine friend. There are a variety of sizes and styles available online and through pet stores. Custom-made boots are also available. Some dogs don’t like to wear them at first, but they will get used to them over time. It is a good idea to get your dog used to the boots by wearing them indoors. Always supervise your dog while the boots are on their feet- just in case he or she decides to take them off or chew on them!

If you decide to not use boots, here is another suggestion. If your dog has long hair on his or her paws or legs, have your groomer clip them very short. This will prevent snow, ice and salt accumulation as your dog walks outdoors. If too much snow gets stuck onto your dog’s hair, this can predispose them to frostbite on the skin below. To protect your pup’s pads, use a balm or skin cream. Dog-friendly and non-toxic balms can be purchased online or in pet stores. You can also use a simple, thin layer of petroleum jelly on the surface of the pads.

With a little preparation and know-how, your dog’s feet and bodies can be protected while they enjoy playing out in the winter wonderland.