Winter weather doesn’t bode well for the furrier amongst us. Unlike people, who are graced with such niceties as boots and jackets, dogs have to brave the winter cold stark-naked and barefoot. Not surprisingly, this isn’t the greatest combination. Dogs are beholden to a wide array of problems ranging from salt strewn roads, to shoulder-deep-snow, to the subtlest, and most insidious of them all: ice balls.
What Are Ice-Balls?
Contrary to popular belief, dog’s feet are not ideally calibrated for the elements. Centuries of breeding have rendered all but a few dogs’ natural faculties unsuited for the snow. As a result, many dogs will find that, after an initially playful departure for a winter walk, snow begins to collect between their tows and paw-pads, and, in the case of the furrier breeds, clusters around the wisps of fur that thread through the bottom of their paws. Like matted fur, the snow collects and hardens, entwining itself with the hair and becoming a nearly irremovable ice ball, causing your poor pup to limp all the way home.
What Can Be Done to Prevent Them?
As unfortunate as this may be, there are solutions to the painful predicament. Careful grooming of your pooch, along with discerning use of Vaseline or booties, can prevent the cold weather from crippling your friend.
One must for winter weather is the regular clipping of any fur that falls between the dog’s toes or paw-pads. Make sure your dog trusts you enough to sit absolutely still as you take a set of manicure scissors, and, in a well lit room, carefully trim back those wisps of fur, leaving enough length to prevent you from accidently cutting your pup, while snipping enough off so that ice-balls won’t have the basis to cluster.
After giving your pooch a good trimming, your presented with two options- if you’re not afraid to be seen a with fashionable, bootie-sporting pup, then by all means put those booties on them. Dog booties can be found at just about any outdoor gear store, or can be ordered online at REI.com.
If, on the other hand, you just can’t imagine that your Great Dane or Rottweiler would have an interest in fashionable foot-ware, there is another, albeit less foolproof option. Before each walk, apply a small amount of Vaseline to your pup’s trimmed paws. This warm, oil-based coating melts snow upon contact and prevents the lodging of ice-balls.
Either way, the most important thing for a dog-owner to do is to be conscious of your pet’s paw-predicaments, and keep a vigilant eye on winter walks to make sure that your pooch isn’t in any pain.
1. Dog Booties at REI.com
2. E-How.com, How to Protect a Dog’s Paws
3. Janet Tobiassen Crosby, Paws to Protect, About.com: Veterinary Medicine
4. Steve Dale, Protect Your Dog’s Paws in the Cold, Pet People’s Place,