Protecting Your Dog’s Paws

Winter can be brutal on your dog's paws. The cold weather, snow, and ice can lead to cracked or peeling paw pads—and that can be painful for your pooch. Fortunately, you can take a few simple steps to prevent pad problems and keep your dog comfortable.

Keep your dog's nails trimmed

Long nails will make your dog's toes spread when he walks, allowing more room for snow and ice buildup between his toes. This can make him feel like he's walking with marbles between his toes. Unclipped nails also affect your dog's weight distribution, pushing his weight onto the back of his feet. This means he'll have less traction and will be more likely to slip on icy surfaces.

Trim the fur between toe pads

By keeping the fur between the pads level with the pads themselves you'll reduce the amount of slushy snow, salt, and grit clinging to your dog's fur. Compacted snow salt on the bottom of your dog's feet will make walking difficult for him and affect his ability to stay on his feet. Ice and salt balls between his toes can also be a source of discomfort.

Lubricate paws before heading outdoors

Cold weather, ice, and salt can cause your dog's pads to dry out and crack. You can prevent this by wiping his paws with Vaseline or cooking spray before you take him out for a walk. Be sure to keep him off slick surfaces inside the house, such as tile, and outside the house, such as ice.

Consider dog booties

Dog boots provide the ultimate protection from the elements and help your dog retain body heat. As you can imagine, many dogs do not instantly take to wearing boots, so try a gradual approach. Let him wear booties in the house for short periods of time giving lots of praise (treats will help, too). Note: Velcro straps stay on the paws better than those that are tied.

Check your de-icer

Salt and other ice-melting granules or chemicals can irritate your pet's paws and cause stomach ailments if ingested. Choose non-toxic options, such as sand, gravel, and non-clumping cat litters. If you do use salt or chemical deicers, look for "pet safe" brands.

Wash your dog's paws after walks

A warm water rinse will not only warm up cold paws, it will wash off any salt or deicing chemicals and dissolve ice that's formed between his toes.

Throughout the winter, try to care for your dog's feet like you do your own. When your feet get cold, sore, and blistered, the discomfort can make you miserable. Your dog feels the same way.

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