Since dogs have sweat glands in their toes, the moisture there can form into balls of ice when they abruptly leave a warm indoor environment and go into very cold temperatures. These ice balls can be so uncomfortable that a dog will hop or limp, and they can even bruise or cut the foot pad.
Some dogs have hair growing between their toes or the pads at the bottom of their feet, which causes trouble in ice and snow. Get a small, round-tipped pair of dog-hair scissors from a pet supply company. They resemble the ones men use to snip their nose hairs, but they are tougher, for thick dog hair. Snip the hair growths from between the pads so that ice and snow can’t build up.
Avoid damage to your dog’s footpads the way sled-dog trainers do. Apply a layer of protection to the bottom of your dog’s feet by spreading a thin layer of petroleum jelly or aloe gel on the dog’s footpads before you head out into the bitter cold. You can even spray Pam or one of the generic vegetable-oil cooking sprays underneath her feet right before you go out. Even if your dog licks her feet later, these products will cause no harm. [It’s probably best to do it just outside the door, or your floors might get messy!]
Blow Hot Air
Relieve ice-covered feet with a hairdryer set on the lowest warm setting. Hold the blower at least six inches away from the dog’s foot. Dry off the melted ice, rinse the feet in warm water to rinse off any salt or chemical contamination, and gently rub the paws to get the circulation going.
Call for Booties
Dogs in any wintry city would probably benefit from wearing dog boots. Be sure to get a quality pair that fits snugly. But don’t secure them too tightly, or you will cut off circulation, which could result in frostbitten toes that require emergency medical intervention.
Booties can be great if your dog has really delicate feet, if your weather is cold enough, or if you live in an area where salt is used to melt the ice and snow. Other ice-melting chemicals like magnesium and calcium chloride can also irritate a dog’s feet, as well as cause an upset stomach when she licks her feet after the walk.
You should go into a pet store to try on different styles of booties and see if your dog will be willing to walk in them, even once you fit a good anatomical fit. Some dogs remain rooted to the spot as if their feet are encased in cement booties – so see if you can’t encourage them to take a few (at first weird!) steps by offering a tasty morsel for each step take (you’ll find Halo Liv-a-Little dried protein treats and many other fine tasty nibbles on another shelf in most stores).
Do You Live In Arizona, California Or Florida?
This advice will be a reminder of why you’re so happy to have a warm zip code!
Tracie Hotchner is a nationally acclaimed pet wellness advocate, who wrote THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. She is recognized as the premiere voice for pets and their people on pet talk radio. She continues to produce and host her own Gracie® Award winning NPR show DOG TALK® (and Kitties, Too!) from Peconic Public Broadcasting in the Hamptons after 9 consecutive years and over 500 shows. She produced and hosted her own live, call-in show CAT CHAT® on the Martha Stewart channel of Sirius/XM for over 7 years until the channel was canceled, when Tracie created her own Radio Pet Lady Network where she produces and co-hosts CAT CHAT® along with 10 other pet talk radio podcasts with top veterinarians and pet experts.
Tracie also is the Founder and Director of the annual NY Dog Film Festival, a philanthropic celebration of the love between dogs and their people. Short canine-themed documentary, animated and narrative films from around the world create a shared audience experience that inspires, educates and entertains. With a New York City premiere every October, the Festival then travels around the country, partnering in each location with an outstanding animal welfare organization that brings adoptable dogs to the theater and receives half the proceeds of the ticket sales. Halo was a Founding Sponsor in 2015 and donated 10,000 meals to the beneficiary shelters in every destination around the country in 2016.
Tracie lives in Bennington, Vermont – where the Radio Pet Lady Network studio is based – and where her 12 acres are well-used by her 2-girl pack of lovely, lively rescued Weimaraners, Maisie and Wanda.