Thursday, 2 December 2010

Paws to Protect

Winter boots are essential wear for humans to provide traction and protection on snow and ice. Our pets need special care and attention for their feet during harsh weather, too. Learn how to minimize injury and discomfort for your pet's paws and be aware of other winter dangers.

Snow and Ice Balls
If your pet is going on a walk or hike with you where there is lots of snow, ice balls can form between the paw pads. This is the number one complaint of my dogs of my life who have had lots of hair between the paw pads that serves to collect the snow and form a nice hard ice ball. Difficult to walk on! This can be helped by trimming the hair a bit and even applying a small amount of petroleum jelly or olive oil to the area prior to the walk. Be sure to use an edible ointment/oil, as dogs often lick their feet and ingest what was applied. Another effective option are boots for pets. This may not work for all pet personalities, but for dogs that will tolerate a boot, this offers the ultimate protection from the elements.
Salt and Deicers for Roads and Sidewalks
Salt and other ice melting granules or chemicals can irritate your pet's paws. Pets often lick their paws when wet or irritated, leading to possible toxicity by ingestion of the ice melting substance. My pets also love eating and licking the snow that falls off of boots, and if you use (or have walked on) a deicer compound, your pet will ingest that as well. Sand, gravel and non-clumping cat litters are the safest option (in terms of not being toxic) for traction on ice and snow, but we don't want pets consuming those products, either. Use caution when using any salt or chemical deicers and if at all possible, buy "pet safe" brands. Be sure to rinse and dry your pet's feet after being outside in snow and icy conditions.
Cut Paw Pads
Injuries happen from stepping on items obscured by snow, sharp edges on ice, and sometimes from snow toys and implements used to remove snow. First aid treatment is to gently cleanse the wound with warm water and a mild soap, and apply pressure to stop bleeding. Paw pads are very thick and slow to heal; deep cuts to the paw pads usually require sutures for proper healing.
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