Paws for concern
Protect those tender tootsies from frostbite, cracking and harsh chemical de-icers
Winter is a fun time to get out and play, but in this land of snow and ice, a dog’s paws can take a beating. Frostbite, cracking and even chemical burns from de-icers can damage their tender tootsies. A paw held in the air is usually the first sign of a problem, but luckily, there are a few easy remedies to help avoid this.
Simple, yet effective for protecting paws, dog boots are essentially tough socks with a Velcro strap to hold them in place. Some even have treaded soles for extra traction. Along with keeping paws warm and dry, dog boots also prevent exposure to road salt. A gentle introduction is key, as dogs generally don’t like wearing boots. Start with short in-house sessions and plenty of praise, and soon the dog will wear the boots without hesitation.
When a dog’s warm feet melt the snow underfoot, ice balls can form between the toes, causing the dog to hop or limp in pain. Ice balls can even bruise or cut the footpads, so remove any ice immediately if you see your dog limping. To avoid problems, keep paws free of ice by trimming the long hair between the toes and pads. Also keep the nails trimmed, as long nails force paws to splay out, making room for ice to form.
To help thwart paw problems, also apply a thin layer of barrier cream before taking your dog on a wintery walk. Afterwards, dry and inspect the dog’s feet and apply more balm to soothe and protect them from drying out. Mushers use special products, such as Musher’s Secret Pet Paw Protection Wax, which are designed to keep their dogs going in tough conditions. In lieu of such products, petroleum jelly is a good alternative.
Saskatchewan hunter Lowell Strauss writes about dogs for Outdoor Canada.