Hazards in a Winter Wonderland

Winter can be hard on a dog’s paws. Unprotected from ice, snow, slush, and bitter cold, their paws need special care in winter. By taking precautions, you can minimize problems with cracked pads, sore pads, blisters and infections.
Rock salt and most chemical de-icers can irritate a dog’s paws and turn a winter walk into a painful ordeal. Stay away from heavily salted areas as much as possible when walking your dog. After a walk, inspect your dog’s paws, checking between toes and foot pads for any rock salt or de-icers. Snow, especially wet snow, clings to long haired dogs as they run and play in the snow. When snow or slush from the sidewalk sticks to the hair beneath a dog’s paws, lumps of ice, often mixed with rock salt and gravel, build up between their foot pads and toes.
Always wash paws with warm water after outdoor play and winter walks. Even if there’s no trace of snow and ice to remove, it’s important to wash away all traces of salt and other de-icers so your dog can’t lick it off later. Never let a dog try to chew away any lumps of ice and snow sticking to its paws or hanging from its fur.
Ingesting rock salt or chemical de-icing products can have a toxic effect. There are pet-safe ice melting products available. Use one of them instead of rock salt for de-icing side walks and driveways. Cat litter may also be used, as it will add traction on ice, but will not melt it.
You can also consider booties if you will be doing any serious running or endurance training with your dog.

Another hazard a pet may face in winter when exposed to extreme cold is frostbite on the feet, ears and other areas of the body not covered by enough hair. Signs of frostbite include skin that is pale or gray in color, cool and hard to the touch. After thawing, there may be pain and the skin may look like it was burned (red color). If frostbite is suspected, gently thaw the area with lukewarm water (NEVER HOT), and then take your pet to a veterinarian. Do NOT warm a frostbitten area if it cannot be kept warm. Refreezing will greatly injure the tissues.
Winter brings many opportunities for walking and playing in the snow – and if we take a few precautions with our furry friends, it does not have to mean a season of painful paws. If you have any questions about this article please don’t hesitate to call us at Golf Glen Veterinary Clinic! You can reach us at (905) 727-3003.

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