- in Dog Health
Extreme weather conditions can be very tough on your dog’s paws, so it is important to make sure that your pet’s feet are well protected before taking it out for a walk. Many dog owners think that a dog’s feet are designed to withstand all weather conditions and don’t realise that snow, slush, ice and hot pavements can easily damage the paws.
The paw pads may look quite tough, but even minor injuries can take a long time to heal and deep cuts to the pads will generally require sutures to enable them to heal properly.
Winter weather conditions can be very harsh and dogs can easily get ice balls and snow trapped between their toes and paw pads - dogs with long hair are more at risk than those with short hair. Ice balls can be extremely uncomfortable, and trauma, frostbite, and dry and cracked paws can occur while out walking in very cold weather.
Magnesium chloride, which is put on the streets to prevent ice from forming, and antifreeze from cars can also irritate the paws. There can be many hidden dangers lurking under the snow too, such as broken glass, rocks and other sharp objects, and these could easily cut your pet’s paws very badly. Your dog may even decide to lick its paws when it returns home from a walk, and this could result in it ingesting an array of toxic chemicals.
Soaring summer temperatures can also wreak havoc on your dog’s paws, as pavements and sand can get extremely hot and could easily inflict painful burns. To avoid these problems occurring, it is best to walk your dog early in the morning or later in the evening when the temperature is more bearable.
If you do have to take your dog out during the heat of the day, try to stick to grassy areas where the ground will be much cooler underfoot. Another frustrating summer hazard encountered by dogs is insect bites, and they can strike at any time of the day – particularly during the evening. It is therefore a good idea to have some topical treatments on hand in case they are required.
Protecting The Paws
Providing your dog with adequate foot protection, such as dog boots or barrier cream, is the best way to avoid any potential paw injuries. It is important to get into the habit of putting the foot protection on before every walk and removing it again when you return home.
Boots are the perfect way to keep your dog’s paws clean, dry, warm, and protected from dangerous objects and chemicals. They are no longer just a fashion accessory for pets and come in a variety of different designs and colours. Many boots simply slip on and off easily and have Velcro attachments to hold them firmly in position. Some boots actually come with a fur lining and you can also purchase disposable boots that are made from natural rubber.
Before purchasing any dog boots, however, you must make sure that you get the right size for your dog’s feet. Sizing charts are available in many pet stores and these enable you to measure the paw from the front edge of the small pads to the back edge of the large pad - the nails should only be included in the measurements if they are particularly long.
If you want extra comfort for your dog’s feet, or the shoes need a slight adjustment, you could try using some dog socks as well. Your dog may of course be less than willing to wear the boots at first, but allowing your pet to wear them around the house for a while before going out in them should hopefully solve the problem.
If your dog doesn’t take to wearing boots then you can resort to applying balm, such as Musher’s Secret, to the paw pads, as this will act as an invisible barrier against the elements. Musher’s Secret was developed in Canada to provide sledding dogs with protection during extreme winter conditions.
This natural, non-toxic wax is completely safe and absorbs easily into the paws, enabling perspiration to escape through the toes.
Check The Paws Regularly
It is important to check your dog’s paws regularly to ensure that they are in peak condition .You need to keep an eye out for any foreign objects trapped between the toes and make sure that the toe nails are not too long. Any long hair between the paw pads and toes should be combed and trimmed regularly to prevent the fur from matting – this is mainly applicable to long-haired breeds.
As well as checking the paws for any signs of injury, you can try massaging them. Massaging the paws can help to relax your pet and improve the circulation. Moisturising the paw pads after massaging them can also help to keep the pads in good condition and prevent drying and cracking of the skin.
It is best, however, to get your vet to recommend a suitable moisturising cream for dogs, as those made for humans may make the pads too soft and this could lead to injury. Looking after your dog’s feet properly will ensure that your pet enjoys going out for walks in all weather conditions.