Baby, it’s cold outside, and even though your pup’s tail starts wagging the minute you mention a walk, that doesn’t mean he’s ready to deal with salty sidewalks and freezing temperatures. “While some breeds are better equipped for cold weather than others, dogs are just as sensitive to the cold as we are,” says Jeanne Budgin, a veterinarian based in New Jersey. And while your pup probably isn’t complaining, the snow, ice, and salt may actually be doing some damage to his paws. Since you can’t keep your dog locked up indoors until spring, we asked Budgin to explain exactly how to keep their paws healthy this season.
Throughout the Winter
To prevent dry, cracked pads, Budgin suggests massaging petroleum jelly or other paw protectants (like Musher’s Secret) into your dog’s paw pads before and after walks to help them retain moisture. Look for one that is wax-based, which will form a barrier between the paws and the ice and salt, she says. After a walk, be sure to wipe your dog’s paws with a warm washcloth to remove any snow, ice, or salt before applying another layer of wax. It’s also important to keep the fur around your pup’s pads short to prevent the accumulation of snow and ice, which can be painful.
Right Before Walks
Dog boots are a good option for some dogs (if they’ll keep them on their feet!). They shield your dog’s paws from the elements and keep them warm and dry. “Booties also provide protection against Ice Melt products, which are often used in excess by well-intending neighbors and can irritate your dog’s paws,” notes Budgin. They’re especially good for active dogs, who may get lacerations from running on icy surfaces, and older dogs, who have brittle nails and suffer from osteoarthritis, which makes them more prone to slipping, Budgin says.
Chances are, if there was snow or ice, your dog probably stepped in salt, which contains sodium and calcium chloride. These products can irritate the paws, causing redness and dryness, and are also toxic if ingested, Budgin says. “The most common clinical sign of ingestion is vomiting, however if large amounts are consumed, dogs may suffer from excessive thirst, anorexia, diarrhea, depression, disorientation, tremor or seizure, and even death,” Budgin says. To keep your pup safe, rinse his paws well after a walk, or use pet boots. Then, enjoy paw-fect walks all winter.
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