Like their (supposed) nemesis, the postal carrier, dogs also like to think that “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom” will keep them from heading outdoors. However, not all dogs are made for all seasons. Small sizes, thin coats, and thin pads can make bounding around in the snow and ice very challenging for many dogs in colder climates.
Imagine stepping outside with your bare feet on a bitterly cold day. Even if you were someone who walked barefoot all time, the harsher cold could put a real damper on your experience. Not only that, but it could lead to injury. Our dogs need a bit of help as well.
The Wintertime Blues
The winter months are very different for dogs and they are exposed to the extremes in temperatures, the ice and snow, changes to the indoor environment (low humidity and higher, drier heat), and chemicals used to melt ice. Any and all of these factors can cause your dog to sustain some sort of injury or painful problems with their feet. That’s why many dogs need paw protection during the winter. In fact, If you watch champion dog sledding on TV, you will even see that many of the teams put special shoes on the running dogs before, during and after their races as a way of helping them endure the cold.
Winter Is a Challenge
If you live in an area where winters run for a few months and conditions require a constant state of vigilance, it can begin to feel like a real challenge. However, just instituting a program of paw inspections, doing grooming and a bit of conditioning with wax or balm, and investing pet safe de-icing agents as well as boots or booties can make a world of difference.
Keep in mind, though, that your dog’s feet are not at risk only outdoors. The indoors is just as challenging, and sometimes a pet owner can worsen problems without even realizing it.
I suggest you consider these issues in addition to the tips above if you find your dog’s feet are still showing signs of winter distress:
- Consider the humidity in your home – Not only does going from the cold outside to the heat inside put you and your pet at risk for skin irritation, but the lack of humidity inside can be at near desert conditions.
- Reduce bathing – It may seem wise to bathe a dog in the winter, but if you do so, you could be removing the natural oils that would be helping the coat (and skin on the feet) to remain as moist and comfortable as possible. Consider reducing bathes to once or less a week during the heating season.
- Put out more water – You may want to put out more bowls or invest in a larger one to ensure your dog has plenty of water to drink. This keeps the skin hydrated and prevents cracking on their paws and pads.
- Brushing helps – When you brush a dog (long or short haired) it causes the dead hair to be eliminated and also boosts circulation in the skin.
If your pup seems to hesitate to go outdoors in the winter, it could be that they are just not designed for the cold. You can help them to get the exercise and fresh air they need by using some of the paw care tips above.
And try to remember that if the weather outside is too cold for you (and even if you feel very chilly inside), your pet is likely to feel the same. Never force a dog outdoors in cold weather if you’re worried it’s too cold. It is not unusual for active animals to go “couch potato” for a few days if the outdoor temperatures are intolerable. Just do what we do – get them outside for their “business” and let them tell you when they’re ready to head back in. Chances are, they are just as unhappy about the chilly weather and will be glad to snuggle on the couch until the temperatures are a bit less harsh.
Ash is a frequent contributor to blogs that focus on dogs of all kinds, sizes, and personalities. Having two of her own – Janice and Leroy – she often speaks from experience. Whether that experience is educational, humorous or insightful depends on what Janice and Leroy have been up to and whether or not it is suitable for publication.