Snow, cold, and ice: How can you protect your dog’s paws from the elements this winter? A number of problems can arise from too much exposure to snow and ice during the colder season; this is why it is important to take preventative measures every time you take your dog outdoors. Here are some ways you can protect your dog’s paws in the winter.
Limit Time Outdoors
Depending on a dog’s size, breed, and various other factors, it can still be hard to tell how long, and what temperatures, it will take for damage to occur. Ten degrees Fahrenheit or below is too cold for a pet to withstand. Smaller dogs might do best if they are trained to use a potty pad so they do not have to go outside very often. Small dogs should not be left unsupervised in the cold.
Check Paws for Snow and Ice
Snow and ice can build up between your dog’s toes. If you are going to be outside for a longer period of time, keep checking to make sure nothing is building up on your dog’s paws. Once it hardens, ice can be very painful to your pet.
Watch for Signs of Frostbite
Dogs can get frostbite, too. Their bodies respond to the cold environment by reducing blood flow to the outermost parts, providing good flow to the inner organs. This is why it most commonly affects the ears, the tail, the scrotum, and the paws. Since dogs cannot tell us when they have frostbite, we do not notice it until the tissue has become hard and dark.
Protect Your Outdoor Dog
Although outdoor dogs become accustomed to colder weather more so than indoor pets, they are susceptible to frostbite, too. Keep your outside dog warm by providing well-insulated, dry bedding and increasing the animal’s caloric intake by 25 percent. This ensures the dog will be able to generate the necessary body heat that will be lost during colder days.
Should the Worst Happen…
Bring a dog with frostbite in to be examined by a veterinary professional. Until then, you can gently warm the area with a washcloth and lukewarm water, or you can wrap the dog in a dry towel that has been cycled in a warm dryer. Never use a heating pad or hot water bottle–they can damage nerves and blood vessels. And do not rub or massage the affected area.
Source: Dog Fancy Magazine, December 2010. Page 20.