Maintaining and Protecting Your Dog’s Paws During Winter

The sky was a superb blue, with glimmers of glowing snow flashing  throughout the trail forward as a lightweight breeze blew it into the air, including a pinch of magic to the scene. The temp hovered round a stunning 25°F (-3°C), and the one sound heard for miles was the swish of my skis mixed with the heavy respiratory of completely satisfied canines with tongues lolling. We had been working out of sunshine, so I peeled off our scheduled route and zipped up a hill, a faster, albeit steeper, means dwelling. 

As we climbed, I seen my Border Collie pause briefly and have a look at his toes, however he saved going. I made a psychological notice to examine his paws after we obtained dwelling. We turned the nook, started our descent, and joyfully charged downhill. 

Then, he stopped – instantly – and began frantically biting at his toes. I kicked my means out of my ski bindings so I might attain him and assist him with what I (appropriately) guessed was bedeviling him: Snow had caught to the hair between his paw pads, and icy balls had shaped and expanded between his pads, inflicting his toes to splay uncomfortably. I felt horrible. In my enthusiasm to get out into this stunning day, I didn’t examine the size of the fur on his toes earlier than we left and he paid the worth for my oversight. 

Had I attended to this winter canine husbandry chore earlier than we hit the path, our outing would have been close to good; the snowy, chilly, however clear situations had been good for my athletic canine sidekick, who’s properly habituated to our chilly Montana winters.


John Wright raises and trains Springer Spaniels in Bozeman, Montana – and in addition takes stunning images of his canines. Frequent nail-trimming, he says, is essential to wholesome paws in winter. Nails break up and break extra readily in winter – particularly if they’re too lengthy.

But snow, ice, and chilly aren’t the one foes our canine companions’ paws need to take care of in winter. In different components of the world, there are different hazards that wreak havoc on the four-footed – together with salt and different de-icing brokers and persistently moist and/or muddy situations – and slightly common upkeep goes a protracted strategy to maintaining our pals up and working. Literally. 

* Nail trimming. While many canine house owners lengthy to imagine that point working on laborious surfaces is adequate to put on canine nails to an applicable size, it’s simply not so. No matter the place you reside, it doesn’t matter what climate or surfaces your canines are uncovered to, common manicure is significant to wholesome paws. 

John Wright, a coach of champion Springer Spaniels in Bozeman, Montana, logs severe miles every day year-round along with his canines and is aware of all too properly the significance of manicure. “Long, neglected nails are more likely to break or split in winter conditions with frozen ground or hard, slippery ice. A broken nail is a lame dog for a week or two,” he explains.

 “Clip those nails! It’s quick and easy once you get the hang of it, it’s a 90-second gig for four paws,” Wright provides. Easy for somebody with lots of expertise, maybe much less so for others. Nail trimming will be an anxious endeavor, which raises the anxiousness for our canine companion receiving that care. Have you ever had your hair reduce by somebody who was not sure of what they had been doing – or who really nicked your ear along with her scissors? That’s a chair everyone’s fast to leap out of!

An article in WDJ’s October subject (“Rotary Club”) mentioned manicure methods and instruments. It could also be moreover useful to get an in-person tutorial on manicure out of your favourite groomer or vet tech or whomever has the talents that instill ease and confidence in your canine. If you might be like me, after getting the know-how you’ll marvel what you had been so fearful over within the first place! 

I flip manicure into bonding time. At least as soon as a month, my canines get a soothing flip on the (dwelling) spa, full with a pedi-pedi and a paw pad therapeutic massage (extra on this beneath). 

* Hair trimming between pads and toes. As my expertise on that in any other case good day illustrates, medium and long-haired canines have to have the hair between their paw pads and toes saved brief. This prevents the formation of snow and ice balls that may trigger painful bruising and harm to tendons.

 I desire to do that myself, fairly than go to a groomer, as a result of it’s a fast and straightforward job with the appropriate clippers. The greatest clippers for paws (round faces and ears too) are small, quiet, and cordless. 

Many years and a number of other pairs of clippers later, I found Cyrico cordless skilled pet clippers and swear by them. Forget about looking for an outlet in a spot the place hair can conveniently fly; cordless trimmers permit you and your canine to be wherever you might be most comfy. And they maintain their cost surprisingly properly! (Here is a hyperlink to my favorites:

Whatever clippers you select, it’s useful if they’re comparatively quiet, serving to to scale back noise and vibration, which may set off anxiousness in some canines. Of course, even the quietest clippers nonetheless make noise, so I discovered it useful to show my canines to affiliate a tasty deal with (they extremely suggest bacon-flavored Cheez Whiz) with the sound of clippers earlier than they even contact the canine’s fur. It’s a tiny little bit of effort that permits for a lifetime of calm clipping. 

If the snow doesn’t fly the place you reside, however the rain is frequent, maintaining the hair trimmed in your canine’s paws will cut back mud and crud that may accumulate between the canine’s toes (and observe onto your flooring), and it helps paws to dry correctly. Excess water can create bacterial buildup between the toes, resulting in itchiness, sores, and infections. 

* Protect with paw balm. Salt and chemical deicers on sidewalks are nice for decreasing slips, however may cause paws to turn into irritated, and a few will be harmful if ingested. Applying a balm to paws previous to heading outside gives a pleasant buffer between the paw pads and the handled walkways. 

The reigning commonplace balm for paw safety in winter (and summer season!) is Musher’s Secret. It’s constituted of a mix of food-grade, natural waxes that kind a semi-permeable protect on the pads, permitting perspiration to flee by the toes. It’s additionally non-toxic and non-allergenic. 

While I discover it to be a really helpful product, its maker claims that Musher’s Secret will forestall balls of ice and snow from forming on a canine’s paws and in between their toes. In check after check on a wide range of canines, all medium and long-haired, Musher’s Secret has by no means prevented paw-snowballs for my canines. Ever. This is just not a deal-breaker, only a little bit of an over-sell. 

You will nonetheless need to hold paw hair trimmed. (If this simply prompted groans, I guarantee you trimming is just not that dangerous. In a winter season in Montana that lasts six months or extra, I trim paw-fur three or 4 instances and it takes 5 minutes or much less per canine. It’s actually not that dangerous!)

Here’s one other winter hazard for our canines’ paws: these large swings in temperature and humidity as you journey indoors and out. These are completely fabulous situations for drying out and cracking paw pads  – your arms seemingly endure the identical destiny in winter! I personally need one balm to rule all of them, defending and treating canine paws and mine too, so I make my very own (see my recipe on web page 15). I add important oils to reinforce the spa expertise! 

Ruffwear’s Polar Trex Winter Dog Boots

* Boots. There comes a time when winter situations will make boots your greatest good friend’s greatest pals. 

Dogs have various sensitivity to chilly, however by -10°F (-23°C), you begin to see all canines holding up paws, typically attempting to concurrently raise three or 4 paws off the chilly floor – it’s fairly a sight to behold! 

Older canines, particularly, don’t thermoregulate as properly and their toes turn into more and more delicate to chilly. Boots could make an enormous distinction for them, permitting them to comfortably get out and revel in winter. Dogs with brief or skinny coats want further safety, too. 

However, in case your canine has by no means worn boots and also you instantly toss them on, put together for a high-stepping protest march full with bucking and kicking. Boots take some getting used to.

You’ll need to spend a while introducing them to your canine. Putting them on after which doing one thing enjoyable straight away distracts them from this new, very awkward accent. Several brief periods will begin to ease a canine towards boot-happiness. 

A great match is crucial to your canine’s consolation, though it may be difficult to search out simply the appropriate dimension; each producer’s sizing varies barely. When doubtful, order merchandise within the two closest sizes and take a look at them on indoors at dwelling. Don’t attempt to “make do” with a shut match; you’ll simply find yourself hurting your canine and souring him to future makes an attempt with better-fitting boots. 

How must you establish good boot candidates? Look for:

Durability. Look for high quality materials with out extreme bulk.

Flexibility and luxury. Dog boots must be supple and versatile, particularly on the canines’ wrists and ankles. Dismiss those which might be stiff all through, rising excessive on the leg, with lots of straps to maintain the boot in place, which may hinder motion and do extra injury to a foot than the weather! 

Good workmanship. Seams, zippers, and patches of hook-and-loop materials (comparable to Velcro) ought to be minimal, and nothing ought to really feel tough on the within of the boot. Anything that protrudes on the within of the boot may cause sores on the canine’s foot or leg.

Visibility. The brighter the boots, the extra seemingly you’ll discover them after your canine manages to lose a number of. 

I’ve tried many fashions from numerous firms, however I discover myself going again to the identical two firms many times. 

Ruffwear ( is nice about serving to canine house owners discover the appropriate boot and match for his or her canines’ wants. Most of their boots are a bit technical; determining how you can get them on and worn comfortably can take some work, however they’re price it. 

Hurtta ( additionally makes nice boots. Their merchandise are simpler to placed on the canines and are usually comfy straight out of the field with minimal fuss. 

Once your canine is accustomed to his boots, don’t tune out; it is advisable keep alert to any signal of discomfort. If a boot slips or twists, it gained’t take lengthy for an errant seam to rub a paw uncooked. Check the match periodically if you’re out to stop these kinds of unlucky boot-mishaps. Few issues can smash an outing quicker than a boot rubbing the improper means. 

Homemade Paw Balm

Yields six 1-oz.jars

You’ll want:

Small pot and glass bowl or double broiler

2 ouncesolive oil

2 ouncescoconut oil

1 ouncesshea butter 

four tsp beeswax

Optional scent: Use solely therapeutic-quality important oils to fulfill your private scent choice. My favourite mixture is Three drops every of  lavender, mandarin, and chamomile important oils.

Also non-compulsory: 1⁄four tsp vitamin E oil as a preservative

1. Pour an inch or two of water into the underside of a double boiler, or set a glass measuring cup right into a pot of water in order that the glass backside is submerged and the highest is uncovered. Bring the water to a simmer.

2. Add coconut oil, olive oil, and shea butter to the glass cup or the highest of the double boiler.

3. As the combination warms and melts collectively, add the beeswax. When the beeswax begins to drift to the highest, stir the combination constantly.

5. Set out six 1-oz.jars and add the important oils (and non-compulsory vitamin E for elevated shelf life) to every jar.

6. Pour the melted base into the jars. Stir frivolously (a chopstick works properly for this) to combine the important oil and vitamin E into the bottom. 

7. Cover with breathable materials (e.g., cheese fabric) and funky till they harden.

Enjoy for one lengthy, chilly winter (longer for those who add the vitamin E).

Kathryn Socie-Dunning lives in Montana along with her husband, toddler son, and two snow-loving canines.

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