Taking your dog on regular walks during winter is important for the same reasons it’s important during the warm months. But winter tends to be harsh on your pup’s paws.
That’s because snow and ice can dry out paws, leaving them chapped or cracked, and in extreme cold their paws could get frostbite.
If you think chapped lips are annoying, imagine having to walk on chapped feet! In addition to the cold, sidewalk salt and chemicals can also irritate your dog’s paw pads. If your dog tries to lick its paws clean, the salt and chemicals could also cause indigestion and discomfort.
Luckily, there are several things you can do to protect your dog’s paws during winter walks.
If your dog has long hair, use a clipper or beard trimmer with the shortest plastic guard to keep the hair between the paw pads short. Trim the hair so that it’s even with the pad. This helps prevent ice balls from forming between and around the paw pads. It’s also important to keep the nails trimmed year-round but more so during winter because long nails force paws to splay, making it more likely that snow and ice will accumulate between the paw pads.
These boots are made for winter walking
Boots minimize contact with the ground and protect your dog’s paws from the cold. They also prevent salt, sand and chemicals from getting lodged between their toes. Some dogs do not like wearing boots at first. If that’s the case with your dog, allow them to walk around the house wearing boots. Be sure to award your dog with treats and praise so that they associate boots with good things. Finally, make sure the boots fit properly.
If you are not using boots, be sure to rub petroleum jelly or some type of paw balm on your dog’s paws. Balms help minimize dry skin caused by salt. Be sure to reapply the petroleum jelly or balm after the walk.
Watch where you walk
Try to avoid walking on sidewalks that have been salted or chemically de-iced. That means avoiding roads and sidewalks when possible. Consider using pet-friendly de-icers for your own sidewalks and driveway and encourage your neighbors to do the same.
Keep walks short
Keep your walks short during extreme cold to avoid frostbite. A rule of thumb is this: If it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your dog, too.
Post-walk paw care
Again, if you use petroleum jelly or a paw balm for walks, remember to reapply it after the walk. Also, have a towel on hand to wipe down your dog’s paws after the walk. This helps remove salt, sand, chemicals and other residues they may have stepped on during the stroll. To be extra careful, consider dipping each paw in a bucket of lukewarm water and then towel them dry.