The dry, cold air during winter months in central Oregon can be brutal on a dog’s coat and paws, causing itchy, flaking skin and chapped, cracking pads. Their paws can take a beating in the bitter cold, especially from walking on salt or other ice-melting chemicals on sidewalks which can cause soreness or other health issues if licked off afterwards.
What can you do to protect your four-legged best friend from the elements? There are a number of simple ways to keep your dog’s skin and paws healthy and safe when going for a walk or playing outdoors in winter. When in doubt, consult your veterinarian for more specific advice.
Don Booties and a Sweater
While it may be a bit of a battle to get your dog to wear them, booties can help to protect your dog’s paws from the elements and prevent frostbite. There are many different types of booties on the market, but it’s important to make sure they fit well in order to be effective. Similarly, if your dog is short-haired, then consider a sweater to keep them warm and prevent hypothermia. It’s important for them to retain their body heat when out in the cold.
Wash, Towel and Dry
Keep a towel by the door and wipe off your dog’s paws after every walk in the snow or ice. If salt or ice-melting chemicals have been applied to the sidewalk, then rinse your dog’s paws with lukewarm water and dry them well so they don't ingest the toxins by licking their paws. You might even want to consider bringing along a small towel on your walks to occasionally rub off the salt, chemicals or clinging snow and ice from their paws.
Apply a Balm
Moisturize your dog’s paws regularly with a pet-safe balm, especially after a walk in the snow. You can even apply petroleum jelly to your dog’s paws prior to going outside to protect them from the salt and ice-melting chemicals. While you’re massaging balm into your dog’s paws, check them for cracks or bleeding. For long-haired dogs, keep the hair between their toes trimmed to prevent snow and ice from clinging to them.
Brush Rather than Bathe
Brush your dog’s coat regularly to stimulate circulation and shed dead skin cells. Limit the baths during winter months as they tend to be too drying for a dog’s skin. Besides, a good coat brushing offers quality bonding time between you and your dog and they will love you for it.
Remember, while your dog loves to be outside in the snow and cold, they may not be able to withstand the elements as well as you think they can. Keep them happy, healthy and safe by following these simple tips to get through the long winter months.