Wednesday, September 3, 2014

How to Care for a Dog's Paws & Pads in Winter

Preventative Tips for Healthy Dog Paws
Don't forget the dog's feet as you prepare the winter boots for the kids. Wintertime is tough on a dog's paws and pads. With proper grooming, attire and home maintenance your dog can enjoy winter with you.

As you prepare the family for winter you may not think about the family pet. Surely an indoor dog can get through the winter in a heated home without help. For the most part that's true, but those trips outside for exercise and potty breaks can be brutal on a dog's paws. There are some things we can do as pet owners to prevent paw and pad injuries in winter.

Grooming a Dog's Paws and Pads for Winter

Dog groomers need to trim the hair between the pads on the wolfie breeds (German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies, Norwegian Elkhounds, Samoyeds, etc). These dogs have an oily coat that does not allow snow to ball up between the pads. Groomers need to look for damage to pads or toenails and report them to the pet owner.

Long haired breeds should have the hair removed, with clippers, from between their pads. Again the groomer reports any damage to pads, webbing or toenails to the pet owner. Take the pet to the veterinarian for any severe cracks or damage to any part of the dog's foot.

All dog's toenails should be clipped at about 2mm past the quick line. For black or dark nails, turn the paw over and trim to just longer than the place the two sides of the nail join. Have the groomer or vet trim them first if you are unsure.

Winter Products for Dog Paws

If grooming is not available in cold winter months there are some products to help your dog's paws and pads. Dog paw wax is available at specialty shops for hunting dogs on rough terrain in the cold weather. The wax is applied to the hair between the pads to keep snow from balling up and causing an irritation. Dog paw wax must be applied before each trip outside.

Don't laugh, but dog boots are one of the best items for protecting your dog's paws from winter injuries. Small dogs most often need the extra protection offered by boots, but when temperatures dip to extremes even sled dogs don them. The key to dog boots is proper sizing. Take the dog to the shop, or make sure they have a good return policy if you are unsure of the size you need. Boots that are too small will cut circulation in the dog's paw, too large will hinder the dog's traction.

Avoid Winter Hazards for Dog Paws

One of the most common hazards to dogs' paws in winter is de-icer and home maintenance chemicals. Rinse away spills and spread cat litter to soak up any liquid chemicals, then remove. If you must use sidewalk salt, spread it and break the ice and remove it to cut down the dog's exposure potential. Better yet, try eco-friendly (or green) de-icers instead. Wash the dog's paws immediately after they come inside and dry them completely if they do walk on de-icers or chemicals.

Checking for Paw and Pad Injuries

If your dog is lifting a leg outside while walking, it may just be too cold. Boots would be the likely answer for your dog's comfort. However, you should check the dog's paw for any injuries to report to the vet.

Wash the dog's paw completely and dry it. Apply slight fingertip pressure to each pad in a calm manner. Note any withdrawal or whining from your pet. By checking the pads on your dog's paws on a regular basis you know immediately if there is a problem or significant change.

While not every winter is brutal, all dogs benefit from appropriate paw care. With proper grooming, maintenance and attire your dog can enjoy winter outdoors with you.


Lessons from the Cornell sled dog team can be applied to house pets</a>

Veterinary Extension: Is Your Dog Prepared for the Winter?

Animal Rescue League of Iowa - Dogs and Puppies

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