Easy Ways to Protect Dog Paws in Winter
by Jessi Larson
It’s cold outside but your dog still needs to go out. What do you do??? Here are some easy ways to protect dog paws in the winter!
The other day it was literally -25 degrees here in Minneapolis. No joke. If you threw a bucket of water off the deck, it would freeze before it hit the ground.
Despite the cold, our dear old dogs still need to go outside to do their business and get some exercise, which can be super tough on their poor paws.
After that crazy cold weekend, I snuggled up to Toby and saw that his paws were dry and cracked. My heart broke for him and of course I had a major case of dog mom guilt. What could I do ensure this didn’t happen again?
I took to the interwebs and discovered some helpful tips to protect a dog’s paws, which, if you live in a cold climate like us, will be a huge help this winter.
Wash and Dry Paws After Going on a Walk
According to Web MD, coming out of the cold into the dry heat can cause itchy, flaking skin. To prevent this, have a towel nearby to pat down your pup’s paws after he or she plays outside.
Also, roads and sidewalks are caked with salt and chemicals that end up directly on your dog’s paws. As obvious as this seems now, it’s something most people (myself included!) don’t think about when you’re heading back in the house. To remove these yucky substances, I’m going to make it a habit to wipe down and dry Toby’s paws after every walk.
Say what you will about dog booties, but those things do a great job of keeping pet paws warm and protected from chemicals and the elements. Sure, boots may look a little bit silly, although you could argue that everyone looks dorky in the winter when they’re all bundled up in oversized gear. After all, you gotta do what you gotta do to stay warm!
The biggest challenge for dog parents, however, is keeping the boots on. Some dogs hate having something stuck to their paws and will try to kick them off. Or for others, the boots just don’t stay on right.
Before you buy a pair, do your homework first. See what people are saying and double check the size chart. This effort will help find a pair that works for your pup.
If boots are too clunky, you can also use baby socks as a barrier. Yes, real baby socks. Sometimes they stay on better than booties and will still provide a layer of protection.
Get Ready for that Jelly
Did you know that petroleum jelly, like Vaseline, can protect your pup’s paws from salt and chemicals? It sure does, according to Cesar Millan and many other pet experts. So massage a bit into their paws before going outside. (Just make sure your furbaby doesn’t lick it all off!)
Petroleum jelly is also great for adding an intense shot of moisture if your furball’s feet are already chapped and dry.
Protect Dog Paws in Winter with Musher’s Secret
I kept hearing about Musher’s Secret, an all-natural, wax-based cream that creates a semi-permeable shield when applied to a dog’s paw. We’ve since purchased it and always use it on those cold Minnesota winter days.
How it works is that you apply it to the pads and area between the toes, and the formula creates a shield to “prevent abrasions, burning, drying and cracking.” It’s also loaded with Vitamin E to moisturize and heal wounds. This is a great, more dog-focused alternative to petroleum jelly.
On Amazon, Musher’s Secret has a 4.5/5 rating, so they must be doing something right.
Lots of Water
Staying warm in winter months takes energy. Literally. Your dog’s body expels more energy to warm up, which in turn can cause dehydration. To prevent this, make sure your pup drinks plenty of water to keep their skin more hydrated and healthy.
Last but not least, simply pay attention to your dog’s tootsies. Maybe make it a routine that every night before bed, you look over their paws to ensure there are no cuts or injuries and that they aren’t cracked or dry. And while you doing it, you could always throw in a paw rub for good measure. Your dog will surely appreciate it.
Bonus: More Dog Winter Safety Tips!
- Limit time in extreme cold – As a rule of thumb, the lower the temperature outside, the shorter the time your pup should spend outdoors. Always watch the thermometer before sending a dog outside. When it gets extremely cold, make sure they spend only a limited time outdoors.
- Avoid antifreeze poisoning – Antifreeze drips from a car’s radiator and has a smell and taste that dogs are attracted to and only a small drop can have serious health impacts for your dog. Signs of antifreeze poisoning include delirium, uncoordinated movement, vomiting, excess urination, rapid heart beat, weakness, diarrhea, fainting and seizures. If you think your dog ingested antifreeze, call your vet right away!
- Keep up with training – Of course you always want to make sure your dog is well trained and well behaved. But in the winter months, this will be put to the test. For example, it’s annoying when your dog pulls on the leash in other seasons, but this becomes downright dangerous when there’s ice on the ground that could cause injury to one or both of you.
- Fur = warmth – Your dog’s fur provides warmth. Don’t shave your dog down in winter months; they need that extra protection against the cold. Just trim it a bit to minimize ice and salt sticking to the fur, especially on the paw area.
- Get a coat for smaller dogs – For smaller dogs with short hair, you may want to get them a dog coat or sweater for extra warmth. You may get some ribbing from friends for this, but wouldn’t you rather have a warm, safe and healthy pup?
- Bathe your pup less frequently – Washing your pup too often removes essential oils and can irritate the skin, especially during cold months. That’s not to say you shouldn’t bath your pup during the winter; it’s just better to do it less frequently and only when needed.
- Beware of ice – Not only when walking but also, watch how much ice your dog eats. Not only could it be made up of dangerous chemicals, the cold ice may also chill your dog’s body and cause damage. Our dog Toby loves to eat ice. One time in an extremely cold bout, he grabbed a giant chunk of ice and wolfed it down before we could stop him. Moments later, he started to shake and whine. The cold was just too much for his system! We held him tight and calmed him, trying to desperately to warm him up. Thankfully this worked, but had it not, we would have taken him to the vet right away.