Winter is one of the most beautiful seasons in New England. Despite icy roads, sudden snowstorms, and school cancellations, there are plenty of elements of winter to love: the beauty of snow falling, rainbows of lights on houses, and the opportunity to spend time with loved ones during the holidays. With this in mind, it’s essential to remember to keep ourselves and our families safe, especially when we get our dogs exercise!
When it comes to dogs, there are few things they love more than frolicking around in the backyard through fresh snow. This is awesome for them as an exercise activity and is just too cute to ignore. However, there are a few health concerns to take into consideration when letting our dogs play in winter conditions.
Some of the biggest potential issues are dogs getting loose and unsupervised, getting hurt from overexposure to snow, and damaging their paws from ice melt or snow buildup between their webbing. We’ve decided to address some of these issues to help you and your pups stay safe this winter!
Cutting Nails and Trimming Paws
One of the easiest ways to make sure that dogs are able to have proper traction when walking around during the winter months is to make sure to trim their nails short. Dogs who have exceptionally long toenails find it more difficult to walk in the winter because of how uneven it makes their steps. This is only made worse on slick ground like ice. By keeping their nails short, you can help increase the amount of traction that they get on any given surface.
It is essential to remember that when cutting a dog’s nails, always use an approved nail clipper and to only cut the end piece of the nail, not the quick (the pink part that contains nerves; this can be incredibly painful if cut accidentally). Just exercise caution, be patient, and everything will work out for the best. Don’t forget to offer your pup a treat afterwards for being well-behaved!
Another thing that is often overlooked is trimming the hair on a dog's paws. You might not necessarily think of trimming the hair between a dog’s paws as an important element of winter safety, but by doing so, you are able to help make sure they are able keep their feet well protected. If their fur is too short, it doesn’t provide any barrier from snow being lodged between their pads, but if their fur is too long, they are unable to maintain the right amount of traction. An easy guideline when trimming to make sure that you are able to stick to the right length is to hold the shears parallel to the pads of the dog’s paws and only cut the fur that sticks out there.
Winter Dog Apparel: Boots
Without a doubt, one of the most effective and possibly cutest solutions for pet paw safety during the winter is buying a pair of dog boots for your pup. Each specific brand that manufactures these has their own unique approach to the solution of providing comfort, warmth, durability, grip, and style to keep their paws warm. Some offer better qualities in a particular aspect than others, but in the end, they all have the same common goal: protect paws. Just remember to provide enough time for your dog to become comfortable with this new product before exposing them into a new environment.
If your dog cannot tolerate dog shoes, then a salve like Musher's Secret can provide protection as well.
Household Cleaners & Ice Melts
One of the most important considerations to take into account when trying to keep dogs healthy during the winter is being aware of the kinds of indoor cleaners used. Products that have potentially toxic chemicals, especially bleach, can possibly harm paws and should be used sparingly, as well as be cleaned up immediately afterwards to prevent exposure. This approach applies as well to other possibly dangerous items lying around the house like trash, broken glass, or other undesirables.
Ice melts are also highly dangerous because of the potential threats that they pose to a dog’s paws. The ingredients in these usually salt-based products can stick to their paws and possibly create blisters, burns and sores that can be difficult to treat, let alone heal properly. Even worse, dogs are naturally attracted to salt and will lick their paws in order to clean this material off them, resulting in their accidental ingestion of the product. This is potentially very hazardous, leading to indigestion, lack of appetite, discoloration and mood swings. By using pet-safe ice melt, you can help make sure that this doesn’t become an issue!
Watching for Frostbite & Talking to Your Vet
Dog paws, ears and tails are equally susceptible to frostbite, which starts with swelling, numbness and discoloration in the affected area. This can be effectively treated by using a rag or cloth soaked in water to treat the affected area; just rub them down and repeat this process a few times until their condition improves. Lastly, don’t be afraid to take your pet to the veterinarian if you are ever concerned about their condition or want to learn more specific information about your breed of pup. Being willing to go to whatever lengths necessary in order to take the best care of pets should be a priority for each of us.
We hope that this information can and will help you in continuing to make smart choices for your pets!