Winter is officially here brrrr! Now is an excellent time to start thinking about protecting your dog and their extremities on those frigid early morning and late night walks. Winter is hard on everyone’s skin. Your dog is no different, except that his skin is completely exposed. Bitter cold can cause chapping and cracking of the dog’s pads, especially if he is outdoors much of the time. Rock salt and chemical de-icers are very irritating to pads as well. Exposure to salt and de-icers, which are commonly used on sidewalks or paths that your dog may frequently walk on, will cause sore pads, infection, or blistering. Not only are the chemicals harmful to paws, but they can be toxic when ingested, causing diarrhea and vomiting.
To combat the effects of salt and chemicals, wash the paws with warm water after outdoor play time or walks. You can either use a washcloth, or dip the entire paw into a bowl of warm water. This will wash away any residue so that your dog cannot lick the salt off later and become sick. Pay attention to the space between the toes as well, because small grains of salt can become trapped in there, causing irritation and pain. Once clean, apply Vaseline (other dog paw care products will work, but Vaseline is quite inexpensive and readily available) to the foot pads. This will help to prevent chapping, cracking, and soreness. Make sure to apply the Vaseline again before any outdoor time or walks.
As a rule, Loving Care’s Master Groomer, Rene Padron, recommends brushing or removing any snow or ice that builds up on your dog. He likes to trim any long hair from the legs that touches the ground and also stresses the importance of trimming any hair from between the dog’s toes; ice loves to collect on this hair. Be sure to trim the hair so that it does not hang below the foot pad and keep the nails trimmed, because long nails actually cause the toes to separate, allowing ice and salt to become trapped between them--not good say’s Rene!
If your dog really seems to hate the snow and cold, or if you would like an easier way to protect their paws, consider dog booties. Though it may take a while for your pet to adjust to wearing the booties, they provide a protective barrier at all times.