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Winter Paw Care For Dogs

When the weather starts to get cold and there is ice on the roads, your dog’s paws become particularly vulnerable to damage. Much as cracked, chapped skin can be an uncomfortable side effect of winter for some people, some dogs are likewise much more susceptible to injuring the pads of their paws or suffering from discomfort and irritations in the cold as well. Some dogs will weather the whole winter without a problem, taking the cold and hard ground in their stride. But for some dogs, walkies during the winter is no fun at all, and if you happen to own one of them, it is important to take extra special care of their feet and be on the lookout for any signs of problems.

What kinds of dogs are vulnerable to winter paw problems?

Any dog can potentially suffer from injured, cracked or sore paws during the winter months, particularly if they spend a lot of time outside, in the ice and snow, and walking on hard surfaces. However, some breeds and types of dogs are rather more susceptible than others are, and it is important to take particular care of them accordingly. Small and delicate dogs are particularly at risk; dogs such as Chihuahuas and other fine boned, small toy breeds. Chihuahuas are so well renowned for the sensitivity of their paws that there is even a thriving market catering to the winter needs of little toy dogs of this type, including doggy footwear like booties for walking in the cold as well as coats and clothing! Dogs that are particularly lean are another good example of dogs that are more likely to suffer from paw problems in the cold- sight hounds such as greyhounds, lurchers, whippets and similar breeds particularly. Even if you have a very robust, outdoorsy type of dog that is just made for the cold- such as a Siberian husky or other Spitz-type of dog, don’t forget to give their feet a check over every now and then as well!

Potential paw and pad problems that are unique to winter

There are a range of potential issues and elevated risk factors to be on the lookout for over the winter where your dog’s feet are concerned. A general check over when you come back from a walk is always a good idea, and you should particularly be alert to the signs of the following common winter problems and dangers.

  • De-icing products such as road salt and grit are the biggest potential danger to your dog’s paws. Not only do these products that are often spread along both roads and pavements, provide a hard, abrasive and gritty surface to help to prevent slips and falls, but they also contain a chemical de-icing product that can lead to chemical burns on the skin if exposed to prolonged contact. Avoid walking your dog over gritted surfaces wherever possible, and if your dog has been into contact with gritted surfaces, wash and dry his paws off thoroughly after your walk.
  • Ice balls forming between the pads and toes of the feet and clinging to the surrounding hair can also be very uncomfortable for your dog and potentially lead to ice burns. Also, the slush and ice on the roads and pavements may contain chemical de-icing products as mentioned above, so always check for ice balls and remove them, and check the paws over for ice balls while out walking if your dog suddenly seems uncomfortable or starts limping. Dogs that have very hairy feet are particularly susceptible to picking up lumps of ice- try to keep the hair around their paws trimmed down in the winter to help to minimise this.
  • Antifreeze and de-icer products used for cars can be another problem- these products are highly poisonous to dogs, and also have a sweet smell and taste that can encourage pets to ingest them. If your dog gets de-icer on his paws, he might lick this off, again another good reason to wash and dry your dog’s paws off once you get back from your walk.
  • Frostbite and even hypothermia can even occur in the paws and other extremities of dogs that are walked or left outside for protracted periods of time while it is very cold- give your dog the chance to get warmed up on longer walks, and keep an eye on his comfort and temperature when out and about on those cold days.
  • Just as some people find that dry, chapped and cracked skin on their hands is the bane of their lives during the winter, so too might your dog suffer from the same types of problems on the pads of his paws. Feeding a diet rich in essential fatty acids can help to minimise this kind of problem, as can using a barrier cream or specially designed paw wax, or even special doggy booties or waterproof socks when outside.

Remember, you need to pay a little extra attention to your dog’s paws and general wellbeing over the winter, particularly during the colder months. But as long as you keep an eye on things, address any problems that arise promptly and make allowances for your dog’s extra sensitivity to the surfaces that they walk on during the winter, there’s no reason why your dog shouldn’t enjoy those crisp, cold morning walks as much as you do!


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