By The Farmer's Dog | March 16, 2017

Few pet parent experiences compare to watching your dog frolic through mounds of freshly fallen snow, hopping like a puppy, eyes wide open in wonder. But despite the initial reverie, harsh winter weather and low temperatures can wreak havoc on your dog’s paws.

If you’ve ever seen your dog freeze up and lift his paws off a snowy sidewalk, he’s not just trying to tell you he’s cold. Without the luxury of human snow boots, a dog’s paws are exposed to both freezing temperatures and toxic chemicals. These elements are typically found in the salt we use to melt snow and ice and put your dog’s paws at risk for drying, cracking, trauma, frostbite, and chemical burns.

Don’t deprive your pup of a snow day at the park just yet. Here are a few measures that can be taken to protect those precious paws.

Give snow the boot
We take the time to put on snow boots, so why shouldn’t we do the same for our dogs? You can either opt for shoe-like boots or rubber, slide-on versions that come in a variety of sizes. We know: getting your pup to actually keep their booties on can be challenging. Still, winter wear helps keep those four feet dry and prevents exposure to salt and de-icers. Their paws will thank you later, even if they fight you every step of the way.

Prep those paws
So maybe your pup’s really not into getting dressed up and you frequently find yourself digging through sludge for discarded booties. Another great option is to use a balm on and in between paw pads. Creating this barrier protects paws from chemicals and harsh temperatures. Note: it’s important to keep paws well groomed prior to applying balm. This includes trimming the hair around and in between the paw pads as well as clipping nails. Once paws are prepped, apply a thin layer of balm before heading out. As always, be sure to wipe paws clean after going outside to make sure you get rid of any residue.

Beware of salt
While salt and de-icers help keep us on our feet, they can really trip up our dogs. These chemicals are both harmful to paw pads and toxic for pups, so never let your dog eat slush or drink from puddles near heavily treated roads and sidewalks. Always wash your dog’s paws with warm water post-walk to help prevent the ingestion of any salt or chemicals that may remain on his or her paws. Luckily, there are now pet friendly de-icers available for your use (hey next door neighbor, we’re looking at you).

Winter weather can take a toll on your dog’s lower half, but these preventative measures will keep your dog’s feet in good shape for hours of snow day play.