It may not seem like it, but a dog’s paws are quite vulnerable to the harsh effects of Winter. Exposure to ice, snow and salt takes a toll on even the toughest paws.
Salts, chemicals and most de-icers can be toxic to our canine friends. Try to keep your dog away from roads and sidewalks that have been heavily treated with salt and chemical de-icers. Look for pet friendly products available for use on your own sidewalks and driveway and try to encourage your neighbors to do the same. While outdoors, do not let your dog eat slush or drink from puddles near heavily treated roads and sidewalks.
There are a couple of ways to help protect paws in the winter. The first is applying topical protection such as Bag Balm or Mushers Secret. Bag Balm is a product that has been used on farms for over 100 years. It can be purchased online or at drug stores, pet stores, farm stores or feed and tack shops. Both products are inexpensive and can be an easy way to offer minimal protection to winter elements. Apply a thin even layer of balm just before going out for a walk. After the walk wipe your dog’s paws with a warm washcloth to remove snow, ice and ice melt. Then apply another layer of balm to soothe any irritation and to keep them from drying out.
Another good option to protect your dog’s paws is dog boots. These boots are made by various manufacturers and can be easily found online and in pet stores. They come in many varieties but the ones I prefer consist of a sock like boot with a Velcro strap to help keep them in place. Some have soles which provide the additional benefit of adding traction. These boots protect the paw by helping them stay dry and preventing exposure to salt and de-icers. Be sure to check that the strap is not too tight; the boot should be snug so that it doesn’t slip off but not so tight that it constricts the paw. Dogs tend to not to like wearing the boots at first so acclimate them to wearing them by putting them on your dog for short periods of time in the house. Praise your dog and gradually begin to increase the length of time they are worn until your dog gets used to them. Two weeks tends to be an average, if your consistent and disciplined with your training. You can find a good pair of dog boots with treads ranging from $20-$60 online.
Dog walking with booties takes training, and it is a process canine owners must commit to in order to be successful. Remember, if you’re frustrated while doing it, your dog will sense your energy and become frustrated and anxious too. You need to step away for a second, calm yourself down, and work through the process gradually. A good pair of dog boots is not just for winter weather. They will come in handy with hot pavement or rocky hikes during summer months too.
How to Treat an Injured Paw
For scratches and small cuts, it is imperative that you give the proper care to your dog’s paw. Otherwise the dog could continue to re-open the wound. Re-opening the wound will limit him from doing almost anything because dogs rely so heavily on their paws.
The first step to treating a small abrasion is cleaning the wound with anti-bacterial wash. After that is done, you will want to wrap the paw in a light bandage. It is important that your dog does not bite or chew at the bandage. Because moisture slows down the healing process and sweat does come out of your dog’s footpads, it is important that you change the bandage on a daily basis. Changing the bandage will help to speed up the recovery process and will help your dog avoid infections.
Small cuts should heal within a couple of days. If this is not the case or your dog’s wound is a bit deeper, you may want to consider bringing him to the vet. For more serious cuts, veterinarians will stitch the pad and most likely give him a splint.
Winter can be tough on our dog’s feet but good grooming and protecting the paws by using a balm or booties will go a long way to keeping your dog’s feet happy and healthy.