We've had more snow so far this winter than in ALL of last winter, so it's no surprise that we've been fielding a lot of questions from pet parents about how to keep their dogs comfortable and safe on their daily walks through Old City, Philadelphia. I'm not sure if the city changed the kind of ice melt they use or what the deal is, but this year the poor dogs are really hurting!
I want to clear up a common misconception first - when your dog lifts up a paw and cries, or refuses to walk, it's probably not because he's cold. Dogs were designed to be able to live outside and walk around barefoot in all kinds of weather. That was before we started asking them to walk on pavement covered with ice melting chemicals! Although it's possible for dogs to get frostbite on their pads, it's very unlikely that will happen to a dog who's on a short potty walk around the city. Obviously, use common sense with this - don't decide to take them on a 5 mile hike on the coldest day of the year. But I can assure you that your dog is not upset because he's cold.
He does have a few very valid reasons to be cranky on his winter walks though. The #1 issue around here is the salt. It burns the dogs' paws while walking, and then when they get back inside they lick their sore little feet, ingesting all those toxic chemicals. Not good.
And that's not all - although their foot pads are tough, ice can be sharp and abrasive, scraping up their feet. Ice melt burns even more when their pads are all roughed up. Snow even gets caught around the foot pads and between the toes and it turns to ice balls! I imagine an ice ball between the toes is like getting a sharp rock in your shoe - annoying and painful!
The good news - you can prevent all this. Because most people don't realize it's the salt and ice that are the real culprits, they come in searching for dog boots that will keep their dog's toes warm. Not necessary! And good luck teaching your dog to tolerate them... if they even stay on farther than half a block.
We've searched far and wide, and the only boots we recommend are PAWZ Dog Boots. Yes, they're weird-looking little balloony things. Yes, they're not what you were picturing when you came in looking for dog boots. But trust us - they're the best winter paw protection available. They're natural rubber, waterproof, biodegradable, disposable/reusable. They come in 7 sizes to fit paws smaller than 1" up to 5". They slip right on, are very lightweight, and are thin enough that the dogs can still feel the ground through them, which seems to be reassuring. Most dogs adjust to them very quickly, and seem to realize that although the boots are a little weird, they make winter walks WAY more pleasant.
They're easy to fit - just measure from the bottom of the big heel pad to the tip of the longest toe nail, or just bring your dog in and let us do it! (some dogs have bigger feet in front or in back, so measure both.)
90% of dogs do great with PAWZ, and they're the easiest and best protection available. But if your dog will not tolerate them (or if you can't tolerate the idea of walking a dog wearing booties), Lumino Nose and Paw Moisturizing Butter is a good second best. It's a coconut/castor oil balm that is applied before walks to protect them from the icy and salted sidewalks. Afterwards, wash their paws, towel dry, and massage in more Moisturizing Butter to soothe, and ward off any infection. This method is a little more labor intensive and messy, but it can save your dog from chapped, cracked paws and dry pads. The balm is great on dry, chapped, crusty noses too!