If you and your dog love to go outside, winter paw care is essential.
Dogs need paw protection from snow and ice as well as from any chemicals that are used on snow or ice.
We give you the essentials to prevent dog paw injuries and as well as basic paw treatment tips you can use when you are out on an adventure with your dog.
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PREVENTIVE CARE & GROOMING
A little grooming goes a long way to preventing paw pad injury and pain.
Trim the fur on your dog between the toes so that the fur is even with the surface of your dog’s paw pads. Otherwise, snow and ice and can pack up between the paw pads making it painful for your dog to walk. You will also want to make sure your dog’s nails are trimmed.
Dogs should have long body hair trimmed (not shaved). Ice and chemicals can get stuck on long hair and dry out your dog’s skin. Worse, it can cause a bad irritation or rash.
When you bathe your dog, use an extra moisture-rich shampoo and lukewarm water. Some follow up by massaging coconut oil into their dog’s skin to moisturize and prevent flakes.
Mushers Secret* (paw wax), Bag Balm* (paw balm), or Vaseline can be used on a daily basis to keep your dog’s paws well-conditioned. They will help prevent chapping and cuts due to cold weather. Apply a very thin layer as you don’t need a lot.
As always, make sure your dog is updated on his vaccines and ask your vet about any precautions you need to take with your dog and specific treatment necessary for your dog.
OUTDOOR DOG PAW PROTECTION
For some outdoor dog paw protection, invest in waterproof boots or use a wax to help prevent buildup of snow and ice between your dog’s toes. You will also want paw protection to guard against chemicals and salt that may be on the ground and that may be toxic to your dog. An easy way to keep your dog’s paws clean is to have them walk on grass when they are outside where chemicals and deicers are not used.
Boots provide the best traction and protect against sharp ice, rock and slippery surfaces. Find boots with a velcro strap or something similar to keep the boot snug around your dog’s ankle but not too tight. Dogs need to practice walking in boots, so have them wear them inside the house and give them a lot of treats! When your dog gets a bit more comfortable, go on a walk around your house and work yourself up to a hike.
FIRST AID ITEMS TO PACK
The below is our recommended list for a basic first aid kid that you can bring for you and your dog on any outdoor adventure. These are useful to treat paw injuries and more.
- Towel or Wipes
- Absorbent Dressing or Wound Pad
- Gauze Bandage
- Medical Tape
- Small Bandages for Humans
- Tongue Depressors
- Antibiotic Ointment for Humans and Dogs
- Paw Wax or Paw Balm
- Tick Remover
- Ziplock bag (multiple uses, including making an ice pack)
- Warm Water Bottle and Cup
- Lightweight Insulated Blanket
- Extra Leash (can be combined with blanket as an emergency shelter)
- First Aid Cheat Sheet
- Nearest Open Emergency Vet Location
- Your Vet’s Contact and Medical Records
Going out into wet weather? Look also at our list additional first aid items to prevent and treat blisters, read: Tips for Hiking In The Rain: Staying Dry to Paw / Foot Care.
For more information about what to pack for a winter outing, read: Top 10 Safety Tips for Winter Hiking With Your Dog – Comprehensive Guide.
ON YOUR ADVENTURE
When you are out on a hike or winter adventure, it’s a good idea to check your dog’s paw pads periodically. Remove any snow or ice that has collected between their paw pads and check for harmful debris or bloody paws. Be aware that dogs can get ticks or cuts between their toes.
Make sure you also have enough water with you. For a moderate 1 hour hike, bring about 32 oz. of water for yourself and about an ounce of water more per pound weight for your dog. If your dog is 32 pounds, bring at least 64 ounces of water for you and your dog. How much water you need really does depend on what you do and how long you go, but take short frequent water breaks. For winter, bring a bottle filled with warm water with a wide-mouth so your water does not freeze.
PAW INJURIES AND TREATMENT
There are several injuries you can watch for while you are out with your dog. We provide some basic treatments that you can apply if your dog has a paw injury outside.
Please note that we are not a certified vet, so any recommendations listed are only suggestions that you may do for your pet. Please consult your vet for more information.
Raw or Torn Paw Pads
This is the most common dog paw injury that can happen any time of the year. Become familiar to what your dog’s paw pads look like while healthy. If they are raw, they may appear red or skin may be peeling off. Clean the paw and remove any debris and loose skin. Apply ointment and wrap your dog’s paw with a bandage. Call your vet to see if you need to take your dog in. Your dog may need to sit out on a few hikes to let his pads heal. When you are at home, put a baby sock on your dog so he doesn’t try to lick his paws. You will need something that can breathe and that’s not too tight. You can also purchase specially made bandages that make it difficult for dogs to bite and have a lick deterrent taste.
Bloody Paws or Pus
Wash your dog’s paw and inspect for any injury. Remove any debris that may be the cause of the injury. To stop bleeding, apply pressure on the area until the bleeding stops. Then, follow up by applying balm or wax on your dog’s paws. If the bleeding does not stop, wrap a bandage with gauze over the wound and call your vet immediately or go to an emergency vet. Change the bandage as soon as it gets soaked with blood. If you see pus or bleeding from a broken nail, call a vet to find out what you can do. You don’t want to bring on more infection to the area.
If your dog’s paws, tails, or ears have ice on them this is a pretty good indication that they are on their way to getting frostbite. They may also have discoloration in their skin. Severe cases of frostbite occur when the skin turns black. If you suspect that your dog has frostbite, wrap them up in a blanket and call your vet. You will want to head back as soon as possible.
If your dog gets a bite wound while you are out, hopefully you got a glimpse of what bit your dog. Tie your dog to a tree with your leash. It may be necessary to muzzle your dog if he is not cooperating after being attacked. If you don’t have a muzzle you can use strips of cloth or bandage as a makeshift muzzle. Calm your dog down and carefully wash the wound to inspect the damage. You can use a comb or scissors to pull back and cut any hair around the wound.
If the bite wound is bleeding, apply pressure to the area until bleeding stops. If the bleeding does not stop, wrap a bandage with gauze over the wound and call your vet immediately or go to an emergency vet. Change the bandage as soon as it gets soaked with blood.
Limping, Licking, Inflammation
If your dog is limping, licking his paws, or his paws are inflamed call your vet. To give your dog some immediately relief, wash his paws and remove any debris. Inspect the area to find the source of the injury. Treat any swelling with an ice pack. If you suspect chemicals to be the cause of inflammation or burned paws, apply an antibiotic ointment made for dogs. If you suspect a broken bone, do the best you can to create a splint with tongue depressors or sticks and bandage. If you can manage it, carry your dog to the car and go to an emergency vet.
For more information about other signs to watch out for in your dog, read: Top 10 Safety Tips for Winter Hiking With Your Dog – Comprehensive Guide.
AFTER YOUR ADVENTURE
Towel-dry your dog’s paws when you get into the car or wipe them down with some doggy wipes. This will at least minimize your dog from trying to lick their paws clean. If your dog was wearing boots, simply remove the boots before your dog gets in the car.
When you get home from a hike, wash your dog’s paws. You can either dip your dog’s paws in a cup of warm water when get home or use a spray bottle to remove debris. Follow up with a good towel drying and let them loose inside. If you leave any chemicals or salt on your dog’s paws your dog may ingest them by licking them clean or they may actually burn your dog’s paws causing more injury and a temporary end to your outings. Paw injuries take longer to heal.
To keep your dog’s paws well conditioned, apply a very thin layer of paw wax, like Musher’s Secret*, or moisturizer to protect your dog’s paw pads from getting too dry. You don’t need a lot on your dog’s paws to condition them if you do this daily.
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