Hot summers are hard on dog paws. Winter comes with its unique set of hazards too: cracks and bleeds from cold weather dryness, frostbites from walking on hard, icy grounds and chemical burns from snow-melting salts. Paw pads perform several protective functions – such as insulating from extreme weather, cushioning bones and joints from shocks and jolts and shielding deep tissues inside the paw from wounds and lacerations – and it is extremely important to make sure your dog’s little feet are properly protected during winter months with these 5 grooming and paw care suggestions:
Keep Paw Hair Trimmed
Use a clipper to cut any long hair between the pads and around the paws to prevent ice balls from forming when your dog is out walking or playing in the yard. Paw hair can become crusty with ice particles when they come in contact with the cold ground, and cause irritation to the exposed inter-digital skin. Make sure the hair is trimmed to an even level with the paw and there is no overhang.
Keep Nails Short
When dogs have long nails, the paws tend to splay out when walking, which increases the chances of harmful ice balls accumulating between the pads. Keeping nails trimmed is important all round the year, but especially so if you live in a high snowfall area to prevent cuts, bleeds, infection and frostbite.
Beware Of Road Salts And De-Icers
Try to keep your dog off streets and roads that are routinely treated with chemical de-icers and salts. These snow-melting agents contain compounds like potassium chloride and calcium salts that cause skin problems, as well as gastrointestinal distress when ingested in large quantities. Older dogs with inflammatory diseases are especially susceptible to them.
Wash your dog’s feet thoroughly if the animal has just come home after walking on chemical-treated roadways to prevent them from licking their cold, dirty, residue-laden feet.
Dog booties are great protection against winter outdoor hazards like this if your pet is comfortable in shoes. (Please acclimate all dogs to footwear if they have never worn them before, and make sure the animals are not traumatized by the experience.)
To clear your own driveway of ice and snow, choose “pet friendly” products with caution because many of them are not pet safe at all. A good rule of thumb is to check the label to make sure it is human friendly.
Keep Paws Moisturized
If your dog has sensitive paws that are prone to dryness, chapping and cracking during winter, start a moisturizing regimen immediately. Ask your vet for a good moisturizing product, or at a pinch, use Vaseline. (Vaseline acts as an efficient barrier against salt as well, and can be applied before a winter walk outdoors.)
If you want to make an all-natural, winter paw balm at home, here’s a quick recipe:
Olive oil or almond oil: 2 tbsp
Shea butter: 1 tbsp
Beeswax: 4 tsp
Melt all the ingredients in a small pot over low heat, stirring continuously. Pour the mixture into a container and allow to cool and harden.
Massage The Paws
Take the opportunity to give your dog a nice paw massage while applying a protective moisturizer, wax or balm. Rub between the pads and then gently palpate and massage between the toes. Not only will it work the moisturizer deeper into the skin, it will promote good blood circulation as well.
And your dog will love you a bit extra for it!