Brutal winter weather affects dogs' paws when exposed to the elements. Cold snow, ice, salt and chemicals from deicing cause irritation, cracks, bleeding and stinging. Pet parents have options to help keep their dogs' paws warm and healthy. Grooming, protective balms, dog boots and washing paws after exposure to cold weather conditions safeguard your dog's paws.
Well-groomed paws and nails are essential for healthy winter feet. Keep your dog's nails trimmed. Long nails will cause the paw to spread out with each step your dog takes, allowing ice and snow to gather between the pads. The ice and snow may have harsh chemicals and salt from deicing procedures, which will accumulate in between your dog's pads causing irritation, discomfort, pain, stinging and possible development of an infection if not taken care of properly. Keep hair between the paw pads trimmed short, even with your dog's paw pads. Also trim the hair around the paws short enough so the hair will not reach the ground. This will prevent ice balls from forming around and between paw pads. Ice balls can be painful and even result in trauma.
Protective balms prevent dry, cracked paws. Keep your dog's paws moisturized and protected by applying a thin layer of balm before going for a walk in the cold. Protective balms will sooth, heal and relieve discomfort, rough cracked paws and itching. Protective balms are available for purchase at pet stores and online.
Dog boots are the ultimate protection for preventing exposure to the elements. They have a sock-like boot and a Velcro strap that wraps around your dog's leg to keep it in place. They come with a variety of different soles. Fleece-lined dog boots come with a leather sole and are used in extreme cold temperatures. Some dog boots have rubber soles that provide traction and stability. Allow your dog to get accustomed to the feeling of wearing boots. Place the boots on him and let him walk indoors for short periods of time until he adjusts to wearing the boots. Dog boots come in a variety of sizes and colors and can be found at pet stores and online.
After your dog is exposed to cold weather conditions, inspect his paws for ice, snow or debris located in between or attached to his paws. Gently remove and clean your dog's paws by washing with warm water to melt any ice particles and to remove salt or chemicals accumulated during the walk. Washing your dog's paws will also prevent him from ingesting any deicing chemicals or salt he may have been exposed to during the walk. As an added precaution, apply a thin layer of protective balm to his paws after washing, to prevent drying and cracking. Petroleum jelly is an alternative to protective balm.
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