Winter is in full force and that means lots of cold, snowy walks with our dogs… There is a TON of salt and other ice melting product out there on the city streets, which can be extremely irritating to your dog’s paws. You may have noticed your dog holding up a paw, limping, or refusing to walk to avoid the stinging sensation. To top it off, in an effort to soothe the irritation and remove the salt, many dogs will lick their paws, and end up ingesting it – which can cause GI upset. Non-salt products are an unknown quantity, which you definitely don’t want your dog ingesting.
Salt is not our friend – walking amid all this salt can be a frustrating experience indeed – for owner and dog. Many owners end up cutting their dog’s walks short, or driving to the park instead, but walks can be an amazing bonding time for owners and dogs and add structured exercise that dogs crave and love, so they’re really important. There’s an easy solution to your salt woes: dog boots!
While they may look silly, dog boots are an absolute must for city dogs who walk regularly on Toronto’s icy and salt-saturated sidewalks, roads and paths. Boots act as a barrier protecting your dog’s sensitive pads from irritating salt.
The ideal dog boots are comfortable and easy for your dog to walk in, are easy for YOU to fit on and take off, STAY ON throughout the walk, are waterproof and provide some traction. There are a lot of dog boots on the market – ranging in features and price. For example, Muttluks have Velcro-strip fasteners, leather soles and come in fleece lined options for added warmth. Neo-Paws have Velcro-strip fasteners, as well as a layering system and various rubber “treads” on the sole. Both Muttluks and Neo-Paws cover the feet and “ankles”.
For those looking for less expensive and more disposable option, PAWZ makes booties which are similar to balloons but made of thicker more durable rubber. PAWZ are sold in packs of 12–if your dog loses a single boot, there’s no need to buy a whole new set. While they don’t feature any padding like the non-disposable boots, there’s also less between your dog’s pads and the ground, so they get a better feel of the terrain beneath them and may adjust to them better. Since they are disposable, they do of course have a shorter life-span: they don’t hold up a whole season as the rubber can be punctured by a toe nail or foreign object. They’re not nearly as durable as a material boot, so you’ll have to replace individual booties as they wear out – but they’re inexpensive, easy to put on and take off, and they stay on quite well.
Getting your Dog used to Boots.
Go slow and use lots of positive reinforcement (treats and praise) as a reward for your dog allowing you to handle his paws and fit the boots on! Let him or her walk around your house getting used to how they feel on the feet while walking, jumping, and playing. (Make sure to take video: a dog wearing boots for the first time ever is hilarious!)
Walking without Boots
If you can’t bring yourself to fit Fido with a good pair of boots, definitely avoid salty patches on your walks and be very attentive to your dog’s comfort. Soak the feet in warm water immediately when you return from walks, remove any clumped snow or salt particles and dry well when you get home from your walks.
Use Pet-friendly Ice-melter
Last but not least, use pet-friendly ice melter on your sidewalks and driveway. While you can’t control what the city or your neighbours may be putting out there, you can definitely use an especially for pets non-salt ice melter, on your own property – these options are generally non irritating to pets and safe if they ingest. These include products like Groundworks, and MELT.
Because we believe winter paw care for our dogs is so important we’ve added some options to our webstore catalog. You’ll find both Muttluks, and PAWZ (Look on the individual websites below for sizing info to make sure you’re getting the right fit).
Snow and ice can make this season such a pretty time of year. We hope that you can enjoy winter walks with your canine buddy, knowing he’s protected and his paws are happy!
–Written by Andria G., Registered Veterinary Technician at Blue Cross Animal Hospital.