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Protecting Your Pet's Paws in the Winter

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Q:  With winter just around the corner, how do I protect my dog’s paws from the snow, ice and salt in the winter?

 

A:  With Old Man Winter fast approaching, now is an excellent time to start thinking about protecting your pet dogs and their extremities on those frigid early morning and late night walks that are absolutely necessary for your canine companion to relieve itself. But it’s not just your dog’s feet that need to be considered this winter.

When it comes to protecting your dog this winter, there are many factors to consider in order to ensure your dog’s well-being.  Following are some of the most fundamental factors to consider: 

  •  Age -- less than 6 months of age vs. senior
  •  Breed -- toy vs. working
  •  Overall health -- any pre-existing conditions
  •  Animal size
  •  Coat type -- thin vs. double-coated / heavy-coated
  •  Wind
  •  Moisture -- dry vs. rain / sleet
  •  Shelter (type, condition, bedding and insulation) for a primarily outdoor animal

Using the basic guidelines listed above, you must determine if you think your dog is naturally prepared to protect itself against the cold of winter, or if you must protect it as you would yourself before venturing out into the elements.

Assuming your animal is healthy enough to be outside in the winter, there are two primary areas on a dog’s body that must be protected from the chill of winter air. The first is the dog’s feet (specifically the pads), and the second is the dog’s core (thorax or chest). Both of these areas provide an area of easy exposure to the elements.  In order to ensure your animal’s well-being, use booties to protect the feet from salt, moisture and potential frostbite. These are available at any traditional canine retailer or any online animal e-tailer.  In addition to weather-proof booties, sweaters or jackets that are placed around a dog’s chest will serve to protect the chest and vital organs.

Additionally, an animal’s feet should always be thoroughly cleaned (pads, between the toes) and dried after returning from a walk or play in the snow, especially when those feet have not been protected with the aforementioned booties. Finally, any article of clothing covering the animal’s chest should be removed so that the animal does not overheat in a well-heated home.

Credit: Andrew M. Streiber, DVM, Bay Animal Hospital
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