Winter Dog Paw Protection Tips for Frozen Ground & Happy Hounds

From changing up your routine, to using a dog-safe paw balm and more, there's lots of ways you can ensure your dog's paws stay safe in the winter.

Published January 16, 2024
Woman holding dog paw sitting on deep snow in winter

Picture this: Your dog walks across ice-melting chemicals on their morning walk. As a result, your dog's paws become red, inflamed, and painful. Your dog then licks their paws to help them feel better, causing them to ingest the chemicals and develop ice-melt toxicity. Winter conditions change the daily routine for us — and bring up some new hazards for our canine companions, but by prioritizing paw protection, you can help ensure your dogs remain comfortable and healthier throughout the season.

RELATED: Safe-Play Tips for Dogs in Snowy Weather

Create a Winter Paw-Health Routine

Paw problems in dogs are prevalent during the colder months, with hazards like snowmelt, salt, ice, dry air, and extreme cold contributing to potential issues. Sore paws can lead to medical and behavioral issues, including sudden aggression if dogs are in pain or emergency veterinary expenses. Fortunately, a few preventive steps can help keep your pup's pads healthy and comfortable.

1. Check Your Dog's Paws Regularly

Regular inspections of your dog's paws should become a part of your routine. Look for any abnormalities, such as cracks or cuts, which can be painful and may lead to infections if left untreated. The harsh conditions of winter can cause these injuries, and they may go unnoticed if not checked regularly.

2. Trim Fur Between Their Toes and On Pads

To prevent ice balls and debris from collecting in your dog's paws, it's important to regularly trim the fur around your dog's paws. This doesn't mean shaving it off completely but rather keeping it short enough to reduce the risk of ice and snow accumulation. By doing so, you also improve your dog's traction on icy or snowy ground, reducing the chances of slipping and falling that could lead to injuries.

And trimmed fur around the paws makes it easier to clean off any salt or de-icing chemicals that may stick to their paws during walks. These substances can be harmful if ingested or left to irritate the skin, so shorter fur helps maintain paw hygiene.

3. Trim Your Dog's Nails

Regular nail trims are vital in the winter. Long nails can force your dog's paws to splay out, reducing traction and making it easier for ice and snow to accumulate between their toes. Trimming your dog's nails can enhance their ability to grip the snow, making it easier for them to walk. It also minimizes the risk of frostbite by preventing the buildup of snow and ice on their paws.

If you aren't comfortable cutting your dog's nails yourself, your local pet-supply store, veterinarian, or groomer can do it for you. You can also try using a dog nail grinder at home, which can make it less likely that you'll cut the quick.

RELATED: Simple Steps for Clipping Your Dog's Nails

4. Moisturize Their Paw Pads

Like our lips, cold weather can dry out paw pads, making them susceptible to cracking and blistering. Using a pet-safe paw balm, like Musher's Secret, can help keep the pads moisturized. When picking a paw balm, it’s important to choose one that's non-toxic and designed specifically for dogs since dogs often lick their paws. Natural ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, and beeswax are commonly found in these balms and are effective in keeping paw pads soft and healthy.

4. Rinse Your Dog's Paws After Every Walk

Woman hiking during winter day with her dog

Use lukewarm water to gently wash each paw, ensuring that you remove all traces of chemicals, salt, and ice. Pay special attention to the areas between the toes, as these are prime spots for these irritants to accumulate. This simple act of rinsing helps to prevent irritation, burns, and dryness caused by these harsh substances.

5. Dry Your Pup's Paws Thoroughly

If dampness is left between the toes or on the pads, your dog can get the chills or even worse. It can create a breeding ground for bacteria or fungi, leading to infections. Use a soft towel to carefully dry each paw, including between each toe.

RELATED: How to Clean Your Dog's Paws

Change Up Your Walking Routine

Colder weather means winter walks should be adjusted to keep your pup away from hazards, like frostbite while balancing their need for exercise.

RELATED: 20 Adorable Dogs Living Their Best Snowy Lives

Limit Your Walking Time on Chilly Days

During extreme cold spells, limit the time your dog spends outdoors and watch their behavior. Signs of discomfort or cold, such as shivering, reluctance to continue walking, lifting paws off the ground, or whining, are indicators that it's time to head back indoors. Always be prepared to cut walks short if your dog appears uncomfortable or the weather conditions worsen. Limiting time will help keep your dog happy, healthy, and warm.

Need to Know

If you don't stay outside long enough, your dog may not feel there's enough time to fully relieve themselves and could have an accident in the house. Without indoor exercise, they may not have a sufficient amount of physical activity each day. Check out our boredom-buster activities for dogs and other ways to keep your dog entertained.

Look For Clear Paths To Take 

When walking your dog through a winter wonderland, opting for cleared paths could be incredibly beneficial to your pup. Clear paths reduce your chances of encountering sharp ice, rocks, or debris under the snow. Cleared paths also offer better footing, minimizing the risk of slips and falls, which is especially important for elderly or joint-sensitive dogs. 

Quick Tip

On highly trafficked paths, keep an eye out for de-icing salts and other winter hazards.

Consider Dog Booties to Protect Their Feet

Dog booties can provide a barrier against the winter elements, keeping your dog's paws safe and comfortable.

Woman dressing dog booties on dog's paws

Pros of Dog Booties

They can also provide additional traction on slippery surfaces, reducing the risk of injury from slips and falls, which is especially important for older dogs or those with joint issues. Plus, booties help keep your dog’s paws clean, preventing the buildup of ice and snow between their toes, which can be painful and lead to cold injuries.

RELATED: How to Pick the Best Dog Boots & Shoes

Cons of Dog Booties

Not all dogs will agree to putting booties on their feet. And, if your dog is one of them, it can be quite the process for them to get accustomed to wearing them. 

RELATED: Pro Tips for Training Your Dog to Wear Boots

Use a Dog-Safe De-icer at Home

Be mindful of the de-icing products used in your area and on your own driveways and sidewalks. Many contain chemicals that are harmful to dogs. If you use ice melts on your property, opt for pet-friendly alternatives.

Quick Tip

Whenever possible, avoid areas where these products may be used.

Pros of Dog-Safe De-Icer

These are formulated to be safer for animals, reducing the risk of paw irritation or the ingestion of toxic substances.

Cons of Dog-Safe De-Icer

Pet-friendly de-icing salt is very expensive. The cost can rack up quickly if you have a long sidewalk, driveway, or stairs to throw salt down.

RELATED: Brrrrr-illiant Winter Chihuahua Memes for a Great Laugh

Keep Your Dog Safe During the Winter Months

These measures may seem like a lot to take in, but they will be part of your routine before you know it (if they aren't already). Plus, you'll both sleep better, knowing your pup's cute paws are feeling fine.

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Winter Dog Paw Protection Tips for Frozen Ground & Happy Hounds