Dog Paws In The Snow & Ice – Plus Dog Boots & Mushers Secret

Golden Retriever playing in snowPretty much all dogs love snow – but snow and ice can cause problems with paws.

Snow and ice can be hard on paws, particularly on pads that are not toughened up, or for a dog that is a breed which does not tolerate cold well.

The three main problems for dog paws in the snow are cold, buildup of ice balls and de-icing (salt) products. All these can cause a dog pain, and potentially damage one or more paws.

If a dog has problems with their paws in the snow, one potential remedy is dog boots. Alaskan sled dogs wear booties for a reason – to both keep their paws warm and protect them. Another way to help protect paws is Musher’s Secret, this waxy coating that helps stop ice balls forming.

Cold paws

Whether a dog has problems with the cold depends mainly on the temperature of the snow and the dog. When a paw is surrounded by snow it is going to lose heat faster than just on cold ground.

Most dogs do not seem to have a problem with snow if the temperature is at or just below freezing. However as the temperature of the snow gets lower more dogs will start to have problems with cold paws.

If your dog has trouble with cold paws, it is probably worth trying boots.

Ice balls under pads

For many dogs, the main problem with snow is the buildup of ice balls under the pads and in between the paws. This depends on both the condition of the snow, and the amount and length of the hair under and around the pad.

The condition of the snow can make a big difference as to how quickly ice balls will build up under the paws. Ice balls under the pad and between the pads can be very painful for a dog. Since it painful for dogs to walk on big ice balls, it is probably best to break then up and remove the pieces. Since the balls are formed round the hair on the pads, they should be broken up as gently as possible without pulling the hair and then the pieces removed.

How to reduce the buildup of ice balls

Ice balls tend to develop faster on dogs with lots of hair in between their toes. Trimming the hair on the paws can help. Hair between the toes should be trimmed level with the pad. This will reduce ice buildup but will still leave hair for insulation. If ice balls are forming around the outside edges of the pad trimming the hair a bit shorter here too may be helpful. Mushers Secret can really help stop the formation of ice balls.

Keeping a dogs nails trimmed is also helpful.

Abrasions and cuts on bottom of paws

Snow and ice can cause damage to the bottom of paws and in between toes. In deep snow a dog will spread its toes and depending on the type of snow it can actually cause small cuts in the soft areas between the toes. Ice can be rough underfoot and also sharp, so it can cause abrasions and cuts.

Musher’s Secret

This is a paste that is applied to both the bottom of the pads and between the toes. It is a non-toxic wax-based mix that is semi-permeable. The fact that it is important since dogs need to sweat through their paws.

The wax will stop ice and snow sticking to the paws and so stop the development of ice balls. Musher’s secret will also help reduce abrasion on the pads due to ice and help protect any wounds, scratches and nicks already present on the pads.

For dogs that are out in the snow for very long periods of time, it may need to be reapplied.

Problems with sidewalk de-icing (salt) products

If your dog has walked where de-icing products have been used, a dog’s paws should be washed on getting home. Many components of these de-icers can irritate any wound that a dog may have got in their paws from sharp ice etc. Salt can dry in between the toes and can be irritating.

Additionally, some de-icers contain compounds that are toxic to dogs. A dog licking its paws could then potentially swallow the poison.

Dog boots

Dog boots can help with many of the problems that some dogs have with snow. They keep the feet warmer, stop the buildup of ice balls and they stop de-icing products getting onto pads and in between the toes.

Did you know in the Iditarod Sled Race that a musher will get through about 2,000 dog booties?

Pawz boots

Pawz boots are disposable biodegradable natural rubber boots. They come in sets of 3 per pack. These boots are for regions where there is infrequent snow, or a dog’s paws need temporary protection due to injury or other problem.

These boots do not have any fastening system which can be a major advantage, they just pop on over the foot. They are color coded for size and quite cool looking. Pawz range from Tiny to X-large. They are also biodegradable.

Pawz are not practical for areas where there are extended periods of snow but a pack would be great for emergencies or that once or twice per year snowfall.

Reusable dog boots

There are a number of brands of reusable dog boots out there. Most have a rubber or vibram sole and a tough upper of cordura or similar material.

In recent years dog boots have become quite sophisticated. Examples are the all season Bark’n Boots Skyliner Boots, see here which are available in green or charcoal, have a stretch gaiter top to stop snow and dirt falling in, a Velcro strap to stop them coming off in snow banks, and a flexible lugged sole and Bark’n Boots Polar Trex that are designed for heavy duty winter weather with an extended gaiter to keep out snow.

If you are going to use boots it is important to get your dog used to them. Before attempting going on any distance get the dogs used to wearing them in the house or the yard. Then do very short distances and check and adjust as necessary. It can take a couple of adjustments to get the boots fitted well on your dog.

Boot liners

Bark’n Boots now sell liners for their boots. The liners are like socks. They help the boots fit better, make them more comfortable and for many dogs make them stay on better. Some users say that they make the boots easier to get on. Of course the additional layer provides more insulation and so helps keep paws warmer. If a dog has sharp nails they can also help extend the life of the boot. See the dog boot liners here – part way down the page.

In conclusion

It is important to make sure that your dogs paws are not hurt by cold, ice balls or de-icing products. All dogs, not wearing boots, will probably benefit from an application of Mushers Secret before going out in the snow. If your dog suffers from frequent buildup of ice balls even after trimming the hair between the toes then Mushers Secret is an excellent idea.

If your dog has paws that get cold or are sensitive in any way, then dog boots are a great way to enable your dog to gt out and have fun in the snow.


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