Many dogs seem to appreciate the crisp, cold air of winter and fresh powder seems to bring out the puppy in many of our canine pals. We recommend enjoying the outdoors with your dog all year round, but in winter, there are some precautions you should take to keep your dog healthy and safe.
One of the most common problems dogs have to cope with in winter is the use of chemical compounds used to melt ice and snow on sidewalks and driveways. The chemicals in ice melters contain substances that are toxic to pets and rock salt – used by many city agencies – may contain heavy metals, which are also toxic to pets.
Ice melters can cause a variety of painful injuries to your dog, ranging from abrasions on the pads of their paws, to burns to the soft tissues in their mouth caused by licking the chemicals off their feet.
Rock salt can sometimes clump between the toes in sufficient quantities to cause serious harm to your dog, especially smaller dogs. Liver and kidney failure or pancreatitis can result from repeated ingestion of rock salt, as the toxins build up in your dog’s body.
It’s easy to avoid the dangers of winter walking though. The most effective way to keep Rover’s tootsies clean, dry and healthy is to purchase a set of waterproof winter booties. They may take a little getting used to (and it’s pretty funny to watch) but most dogs eventually adjust and stride off happily.
If your dog refuses to wear his footwear, no problem, there are other solutions. Keep a damp washcloth and a spray bottle of water by the door and rinse and wipe your dog’s feet when you return from your walk. This has the added bonus of removing any mud or dirt so that it doesn’t get tracked through your house!
Another option is to cover your dog’s paw pads with a pet-safe gel such as Mushers Secret or regular old petroleum jelly. Be sure to keep the hair between your dog’s toes trimmed short to prevent the snow balling up between his toes. Again, as soon as you get home, thoroughly wipe his feet off and don’t allow him to lick any of the gel off his paws. Although it’s not toxic, it’s not designed for eating and can lead to an upset tummy.