Just as we have to put a bit more effort into caring for ourselves over the colder months, so we need to pay more attention to our Pooches’ paws. Dogs’ paws take a fair old battering anyway, but even more so over winter when temperatures can plummet and we put down a whole slew of chemicals to deal with ice and snow. Luckily there is an awful lot we can do to help our Canine companions out …….

Dogs’ paws are more susceptible to getting sore and damaged, and even the skin cracking (ouch!) in the harsher weather so please check your dogs’ feet regularly; this is especially important after coming in from a walk.

The creases and folds between dogs’ toes are havens for grass seeds, grit and general dirt to hide in at any time of year, but they can cause more irritation and/or chafing than usual in winter due to the extra stress that the skin barrier is put under. Whenever you get chance check this area carefully for anything that’s got lodged in there, and look for any sore skin and pay attention to any reaction from your pooch that may indicate a sensitive area, such as pulling their paw away. It’s easy to clean the area with warm, soapy water and just rinse any residue off and gently but thoroughly dry the area afterwards.

Keeping on top off your hounds general paw hygiene will go a long way to warding off problems too. Having their claws regularly trimmed is a simple but effective step; you can either take them to a groomer, or bring them into us here at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre, or you can do it at home yourself once you know how to do it.

Some dogs are rather hirsute (hairy) between their toes and around their legs, sporting thick or long coats in these areas. Now, there is a reason that nature bestowed this upon them (protection against the elements), but you can have too much of a good thing. In winter this hair can hold clumps of snow and ice, which isn’t pleasant as it makes Fido colder than he/she needs to be. Judicious trimming of this hair can minimise balls of snow and ice weighing them down whilst maintaining adequate protection against water and wind; a win-win for your beloved fur-baby.

For those of you who literally walk miles and miles with your dog, just bear in mind that the pads of their paws can get worn down, leading to sensitivity and soreness; this is more the case when they walk on rough or hard surfaces. To help prevent this you can apply some Petroleum Jelly (commonly known as Vaseline), or you can use pet friendly non-toxic moisturising cream on their pads. Increasingly popular is the use of paw wax, and there are a huge number of these on the market. You can make your own at home, and even make extra as a treat for friends dogs’ birthdays; I came across a simple recipe on the web for Planet Paws’ Paw Wax:

Over a low heat, gently melt the following until they’re all mixed together: 3oz Beeswax, 3 tablespoons Calendula Oil, 3 tablespoons Avocado oil, and 3 tablespoons Coconut oil. When they’re melted, just pour into a suitable container (old lip balm pots for example) and use to your hearts’ contentJ As you apply it, you will be massaging your dogs’ paws – no wonder we say it’s a dogs’ life!- which has the added benefit of improving blood flow and circulation to this area. Plus it’s a nice way to bond with your Canine pal, not that any of us need an excuse for extra fusses 🙂

Some breeds of dogs are more sensitive to cold, such as Greyhounds and Chihuahuas, and they can really struggle with cold ground. If they will tolerate them, a set of warm, waterproof dog shoes/booties could be the answer to their prayers. As with everything new, they may need a bit of time and repeated wearing to get used to the feeling of boots, but if it makes life more bearable for them then it’s all to the good. Boots can also help when it come s to the next winter hazard for dogs’ feet, namely hidden dangers.

Snow, thick frost, and ice can disguise potential hazards such as broken glass or sharp sticks and your dog may inadvertently injure themselves on something like this whilst out and about. Sometimes despite our best care an injury will occur this way, so please just keep an extra eye out and check your dogs’ paws when you return home.

Frozen surfaces mean the ground becomes more compacted and harder to walk on which places extra strain on your dogs’ joints, bones and muscles. Now you don’t need me to tell that dogs get a bit silly and giddy on walkies, so try to minimise high-impact activities such as jumping over logs in woods (or jumping in general). A lot of dogs simply love swimming and will even do it in ridiculously cold temperatures (why? Just why?!). Where there is a danger of thin ice it doesn’t need saying don’t let them go in, but if it’s safe and they have a cheeky dip then towel dry them as quickly as you can so they don’t get cold.

I mentioned chemicals at the top of the blog and the biggest risks are from de-icer, anti-freeze and grit used for roads and paths. The simplest thing to do is to wash poochy paws as soon as you get chance, or even better avoid surfaces that have been treated where possible. Washing their paws removes the harmful chemicals and prevents them being ingested. Most people don’t realise, but a lot of Anti-freezes and de-icers actually smell and taste sweet to dogs, and this encourages dogs to lick their paws to get it off. Unfortunately, the chemicals can be fatal if ingested in large enough quantities, not something we want to see here at SLVC.

I hope you have found this article informative, and if you try the paw wax recipe please let us know how you get on with it; even better, send us a photo of your fur-baby with it on 🙂

Until next time; stay safe, stay well, and be happy 🙂