Winter paw care for your dog

From the best protective products to proper cleaning tips, here’s everything you need to know about winter paw care for your canine companion!

Whether you’re a dog or a human, the winter season has much to offer. Fresh snowfalls provide a blank canvas for fun and games, the crisp air is the perfect excuse to wear all the wool, and there’s nothing better than curling up with your pup next to a roaring fire! But despite the joys, winter also brings a big downfall that no dog or his parent can escape – cracked dry paws. Need some help keeping his feet healthy until spring? Read on for some essential winter paw care tips!

Protection is key

If you walked around without boots or socks all winter, your feet would suffer some damage, too! Although canine paws are much better equipped than our own to handle the elements, they can still use a little extra help every now and again. Investing in one or more of the following products will help keep his tender tootsies in top condition.

Boots

Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see dogs of all sizes prancing around in booties. They’re available in a variety of styles – from “casual” to “sport” – and they’re a sure-fire way to keep paws protected.

“Dogs fall into two categories – some are divas about wet and cold, while others are very stoic, even if you later find cuts or salt burns on their paws,” says Katherine Taylor, social media manager with Hurtta America (hurtta247.com). “Regularly check your dog’s paws, nails, and between the pads for cracks, redness and blisters, especially if he’s been walking on salted sidewalks, ice or granular snow. If your pup is frequently exposed to harsh conditions, boots are the best way to protect his feet.”

Balms

Balms, salves and butters – oh my! There are lots of different paw ointments available, and they’re all designed to keep paws supple and healthy. Typically, they work on two levels. First, they act as an invisible shield to repel snow, ice and other winter elements that can lead to cracking and drying. Secondly, they moisturize and heal tissue that’s already damaged. Some even contain ingredients that help with inflammation and infection.

When shopping for a paw product for your pup, be sure to check the ingredients list. Avoid those with a long list of chemical names, and opt instead for something with natural healing ingredients, like Shea butter, coconut oil, vitamin E, beeswax and essential oils. If you’re feeling crafty, you can even make your own paw balm (see sidebar at right).

Wax

Though paw wax is similar to a lotion, it tends to be a bit more protective than it is healing. If warding off irritants is your main goal, go with this option. You can always apply a wax before your walk and a lotion after for extra support. Again, look for a natural products.

Extra paw care tips

Keep walks short

This is especially important if the temperature is below -25°C (-13°F) or the wind chill is strong. Even though dogs have hair to protect their feet, frostbite on sub-zero days is still a big concern. Though tolerance to the cold varies by breed and age, it’s still safer to take your pup on a series of short walks throughout the day as opposed to one long one. If your own toes are cold, his probably are too!

Use a pet-safe ice melt

It’s not just snow and ice that’s doing damage to his sensitive paw pads. The chemicals in certain ice melts are also a primary culprit. For your driveway and sidewalks, reach for something more pet-friendly. The ice melt you choose should be made with natural ingredients, and the pellets should be round. No sharp edges means no cuts between his pads!

While salt-based ice melts are popular, they aren’t the best choice either. “Rock salt such as calcium chloride can heat up to 175°F, and dogs and cats get second degree burns at 125°F,” says Alecia Chrin, Global Director of Strategy at Safe Paw (safepaw.com). “Salt-free ice melters offer a very different way of melting ice, without heat. They actually add inhibitors to water molecules to unfreeze them, and prevent the water from refreezing.”

Don’t forget to wipe!

Most people assume they only need to wipe their dogs’ paws when it’s muddy outside. But giving your pup’s feet a quick rubdown with a warm damp towel after is also important after a winter stroll. It’ll ensure the removal of chemical residues from your neighbor’s not-so-pet-friendly ice melt, and give you a chance to check for any cuts or scrapes. If any snowballs accumulate between his pads, you can use the towel to remove them.

Winter paw care doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. With just a little extra attention, you can keep his tootsies safe and healthy all season long!