Humans have many means to keep their feet toasty warm in the winter with all the boots and thick socks on the market, so many pet owners forget that their dogs might suffer from painful paws when it's cold outside. Man's best friend needs to go outside in sometimes freezing conditions. The last thing you want is for your dog to get frostbite or to be in pain in any way.
Keep Paw Hair Clipped
You likely will need to shorten your walks with your dog, depending on the temperature and how tolerant your dog is to the cold. Longhaired dogs with thick coats that were bred for the cold tolerate winter conditions better. But, no matter what kind of dog you have, be alert to signs of your dog experiencing pain during a walk. It could mean his paws have cracked or that he got ice or snow between his toes. You can help prevent ice accumulation by keeping the hair between the toes clipped.
Although not as common as shoes are for people, booties are available in some pet stores and online for dogs to wear when the temperature drops. Make sure you get the right size. If you can't walk normally in shoes that don't fit, you can't expect your dog to be able to, either. The boot should be snug enough that it doesn't slip while your dog walks, but neither should it be too tight or constricting. Dog whisperer Cesar Millan suggests on his website that you acclimate your dog slowly to booties by having him wear them around the house before going outside.
Treat Frostbite and Cracked Paws
Your dog might have frostbite if you see him lifting his feet off the ground during your walks. Check his paws. If they are red or gray, he might have frostbite. Get your dog inside immediately and wrap his feet in a blanket to warm them up. Meanwhile, call your veterinarian to find out what to do next.
If your dog's paws are cracked and dry, rub bag balm, which you should be able to find at the pet store, on them to moisturize. Vaseline can also work for this purpose. In addition, apply a thin layer of balm on the paws before you go out on your next walk.
Watch for Chemicals
While you are keeping your pooch's paws pleasant, try to avoid areas that have been chemically treated with antifreeze and de-icers. They are toxic for dogs. To be safe, always wipe down your pet's paws with a warm washcloth as soon as you come in. If you don't, and your dog licks his paws, he could be poisoned. You can use a non-toxic de-icer on your own driveway and sidewalk.
Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.