Cold Dog Paws in Frosty Weather

Protect your dog’s feet in the winter

Since dogs have sweat glands in their toes, the moisture there can form into balls of ice when they abruptly leave a warm indoor environment and go into very cold temperatures. These ice balls can be so uncomfortable that a dog will hop or limp, and they can even bruise or cut the foot pad.


Some dogs have hair growing between their toes or the pads at the bottom of their feet, which causes trouble in ice and snow. Get a small, round-tipped pair of dog-hair scissors from a pet supply company. They resemble the ones men use to snip their nose hairs, but they are tougher, for thick dog hair. Snip the hair growths from between the pads so that ice and snow can’t build up.

Paw Salve

Avoid damage to your dog’s footpads the way sled-dog trainers do. Apply a layer of protection to the bottom of your dog’s feet by spreading a thin layer of petroleum jelly or aloe gel on the dog’s footpads before you head out into the bitter cold. You can even spray Pam or one of the generic vegetable-oil cooking sprays underneath her feet right before you go out. Even if your dog licks her feet later, these products will cause no harm. [It’s probably best to do it just outside the door, or your floors might get messy!]

Blow Hot Air

Relieve ice-covered feet with a hairdryer set on the lowest warm setting. Hold the blower at least six inches away from the dog’s foot. Dry off the melted ice, rinse the feet in warm water to rinse off any salt or chemical contamination, and gently rub the paws to get the circulation going.

Call for Booties

Dogs in any wintry city would probably benefit from wearing dog boots. Be sure to get a quality pair that fits snugly. But don’t secure them too tightly, or you will cut off circulation, which could result in frostbitten toes that require emergency medical intervention.

Booties can be great if your dog has really delicate feet, if your weather is cold enough, or if you live in an area where salt is used to melt the ice and snow. Other ice-melting chemicals like magnesium and calcium chloride can also irritate a dog’s feet, as well as cause an upset stomach when she licks her feet after the walk.

You should go into a pet store to try on different styles of booties and see if your dog will be willing to walk in them, even once you fit a good anatomical fit. Some dogs remain rooted to the spot as if their feet are encased in cement booties — so see if you can’t encourage them to take a few (at first weird!) steps by offering a tasty morsel for each step take (you’ll find Halo Liv-a-Little dried protein treats and many other fine tasty nibbles on another shelf in most stores).

Do You Live in Arizona, California or Florida?

This advice will be a reminder of why you’re so happy to have a warm zip code!

—Tracie Hotchner
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photo credit: stef thomas Winter walkies via photopin (license)