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Can I Walk My Dog in the Winter? Yes, but These Things can Hurt Their Paws!

A dog's paws are not invincible.

Since dogs walk around essentially on their "bare feet" all of the time it's easy to forget that those paws and little pads are not indestructible. They are not like a pair of Nike shoes or hiking boots offering our dogs the ultimate in protection.

We just went through some brutal, brutal cold up here in Minnesota last week. It was actually recommended that people not take their dogs for walks at all on a couple of those Arctic days for a few reasons - 

One - it was just too darn cold (for anyone or anything to be outside) and two - a dog's paws could be seriously harmed.

If you care about your dog's paws during these cold winter months, read on!

What Is Lurking That Can Hurt My Dog's Paws?

During the winter there is the cold and extreme weather that can bring harm to your dog and his paws.

In addition to the outside environmental elements, there are other factors that can actually damage your dog's paws.

Here is a list of pup and paw crippling factors to keep in mind when taking your dog out in the winter.

Rough Ice And Terrain

Your dog's paws can be seriously damaged by rough ice and rough terrain.

Dog's paw pads are tough but they are not indestructible. Rough, jagged, and sharp snow and ice can puncture or cut your dog's pads.

Your shoes or winter boots might make it difficult to realize how rough or sharp the snow or ice is that you are walking on so be sure to pay extra close attention when you take your dog out for their walk.

Salts and deicers

In the winter many roads and sidewalks are treated with deicing salts.

Road salts are composed of chloride mixed with calcium, sodium, potassium, or magnesium. They may also contain other types of salt.

These chemicals can cause your dog's pads to crack, burn, and dry out.

Another danger from road salts (and other deicers) is that your dog might ingest them.

Dogs like to lick their paws and they may do it incessantly if their paws are irritated from salt or deicers; they may even lick your boots. When your dog does this he will swallow the deicing salt. Ingesting small amounts of deicing salt probably won't likely cause severe issues but may cause an upset stomach, diarrhea and/or vomiting. So, still not good for your dog even in small amounts.

Walk your dog on grass or snow to keep their paws off the salty driveways, sidewalks, and roads!

AntiFreeze

Antifreeze (ethylene glycol) that is used in cars is actually a very deadly poison for dogs. As little as one or 2 teaspoons can be deadly to a small animal.

Unfortunately, it has a sweet taste that appeals to dogs so it's critically important that any ethylene glycol spills are cleaned up IMMEDIATELY!

Propylene glycol is a safer option so you might want to think about switching, but you are unable to control what other people use. Please note that I say safer but something considered "less poisonous" is still poisonous.

Old-fashioned ethylene glycol antifreeze is typically a greenish color. Keep your eyes open when you're out for that walk so your dog will not get their nose into somebody else's spilled or leaked antifreeze.

Ice Balls

Snow and ice can get packed between your dog's paw pads and form ice balls between their pads. This is very uncomfortable and often painful for your dog.

If your dog is chewing at their paws after you get home from your walk, ice balls are most likely the reason.

Help your dog get those ice balls out of their foot by feeling around between the paw pads and pulling out the little balls of snow.

Dog chewing ice in paw

Frostbite

A dog's paws do not get as cold as our bare feet would if we were outside in the snow. That is because a dogs fancy anatomy is designed to help keep those paws warm. But, when the weather is extreme or your dog is left outside too long their paws are still definitely susceptible to frostbite!

Frostbite can occur anytime the temperature gets below 32°F (0°C) and the colder it is, the quicker it will happen!

Dogs that love to be outside like the Alaskan Malamute, Samoyed, and Siberian Husky can get frostbite. Heck, even sled dogs wear dog boots to protect their paws!

Put a washcloth and shallow bowl with warm water near the door so you can clean your dog’s paws after his walk!

Hypothermia

Hypothermia results from extended exposure to cold and can be life-threatening.

Hypothermia will most likely not happen if the two of you just go out for a walk but it can definitely happen if your dog is left outside too long.

Senior dogs, puppies, and dogs with specific diseases, such as thyroid conditions, are more susceptible to cold temperatures. This means they are more prone to getting frostbite and/or hypothermia.

Signs of hypothermia are:

  • shivering
  • shallow breathing
  • lethargy
  • weak pulse

Trust Your Gut

Some dogs have a higher tolerance for cold than others. Maui loves to lay outside when it's cold with her nose to the air like it's the best thing ever! Emma can't stand it and gets extremely cold very quickly.

Think about sitting outside with only a sweatshirt and a nice pair of socks for warmth (and pants of course). If it's too cold for you to sit outside too long like that, don't leave your dog out either.

It's better to be safe and bring them in and to risk their health or life by leaving them out too long.

If you think your dog is suffering from a temperature related illness, quickly get them to a warm dry environment and call your dog's veterinarian.

If you even suspect your dog has ingested a poisonous substance call or bring your dog to your veterinarian immediately!

Having a Safe Winter

Maui and Emma want you and your pup to have a fun winter but they also want you to have a safe winter!

Watch the temperature gauge and keep your dog's paws safe and warm.

To protect your dog's paws from the environment, temperatures, and toxic poisonous substances please consider getting a pair of dog boots or booties. They come in many sizes and range from mild protection to all-out rugged doggy boots.

You can check out some great options in our blog post: Protective Dog Winter Boots

You can also find many options listed on Amazon, Chewy.com, online pet stores, and brick-and-mortar pet stores. 

With winter love,

Maui and Emma

What do you do to protect your dog from the winter elements?

Have any favorite dog boots or coats you would like to recommend?

Share your thoughts and stories with other readers in the comments below!


  • Stratos K says:

    Nice tips and advice you give there. I had a dog for more than 20 years but where I live it never gets so extremely cold so I can say that we never have to face such extreme conditions. But it’s always good to know how to treat them in such conditions if ever be the case. Thank you for the information.

    • Lynne says:

      Hi Stratos, Glad you enjoyed our post. Any sort of extreme temperatures can be dangerous to a dog’s paws so keep that in mind if it gets really hot where you live 🙂 Please stop back again!

  • zuchii says:

    Walking your dogs barefooted in the winter is not advisable, it is recommended to always wear dog shoes when walking your dog in the winter. initially the dogs might resist wearing the shoes, however, as time goes on they become comfortable and enjoy wearing them. it is fashionable and cool,

    • Lynne says:

      It is pretty funny watching dogs get used to wearing booties/boots, but you are right in that they will get used to it after a while. Thank you so much for your support and for stopping by!

  • Kehinde Segun says:

    This is amazing post with helpful tips. But kudos to you for taking your time to write this. Though i dont own a dog buty friend will really appreciate this poat when I share it with him. Actually, protecting our dog is really key and important during the winter. Need to send this link to my friend. This is really amazing

    • Lynne says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read our post! The health and well-being of our best friends is so important and I felt it was necessary to write this post. We have had such extreme weather appear in Minnesota lately and I worry about all of our furry friends. We much appreciate your sharing our post with your friends as well!❤️️🐾

  • Effie says:

    Well, you touched a subject that created frequent vivd discussions – you can call them fights- in our family. I didn’t know anything about ice balls, antifreeze salt, rough terrain etc mentioned in your article, but my instinct told me that we should be careful with Rocky’s paws. My dear husband insisted there was no problem. I’ve passed him the article and I can tell there will be no more fights. The only thing to do now  is decide the color of the boots !! Great idea!!! 

    • Lynne says:

      Hi Effie, Well, I am glad I could help you out 😉 yes there are a lot of things that can hurt a dog’s paws and winter dangers that we just don’t think about. Please remember to use a link from our website when you decide on what color boots! The little bit of money they earn from the sale will help support Maui and Emma’s treat habit 🙂

  • Luke says:

    Hi, very interesting article about walking dogs in winter time. I heard for Minnesota arctic weather a few days ago, it must be really cold…and as you in such conditions we shouldn`t forget on dogs and their needs. I actually didn`t think that there are so many negative factors which can damage dog`s paws, you described it very well and I need to say that protective dog boots are good idea. Thanks for sharing with us!

    • Lynne says:

      Hi Luke, Thank you so much for taking the time to read our blog post! Yes, it has been indescribably cold up here in Minnesota! It’s a balmy -2° today 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by and we hope you come back again! 🐾

  • Louis says:

    Thanks for this article. Often I think I’m also guilty of this, padding my feet with a big hiking boots and leaving my canine companions to walk in the cold barefoot. I believe this is a something to really consider. But, most dog boots I’ve seen are not really impressive for my type of person. 

    Can you recommend something masculine for my dogs? Thank you

    • Lynne says:

      Hi Louis, Most dog boots come in black which is a universal and masculine color. I wrote a post about different dog boots and I believe they all come in black. They might not be fashionable like a fancy hiking boot but they will definitely keep your dog’s paws safe in the winter or any other season when you’re out walking.

  • Olushola says:

    Hello,

    Thanks for sharing this great tips regarding dog paws in your article. Actually, I never knew a dog paws could be affected or damaged by cold, rough or sharp surface. I usually think that’s the way they were made naturally and could not get hurt because they are different from human who wear boots or shoes.

    Now I know better to walk my dog on snow or grass so as to keep the paws save . Thanks once again for this review.

    Regards,

    Olushola 

    • Lynne says:

      Hi there! Yes, it’s easy to think that dogs paws are impervious to the elements because they walk on them all the time but that is just not the case. Cold, as well as hot, can really hurt and cause severe issues for your dog’s paws. I’m glad you found the article useful 🙂 Please stop back again!

  • Roopesh says:

    I am from the other side of the world, but I saw on the news, how extreme the weather got on your side. That was crazy, and being a dog lover myself, I could not help but to think of those dogs(and animals) that did not have any warmth or shelter during the time.

    I visited your site and was so impressed by all the information, that I bookmarked it as one of my favs. This article of yours taught me about antifreeze. It completely slipped my mind that dogs would find it palatable. 

    I will be sharing this article with my family who is staying on your side of the world.

    Regards

    Roopesh

    • Lynne says:

      Hi Roopesh, So glad you found the information helpful! Maui, Emma, and I would be very grateful if you would share the information with your family 🙂 enjoy your warm weather while we are freezing our rear-ends off over here 😉

  • Joanne says:

    Hi Maui and Emma

    Great advice!  Sometimes we can easily overlook that fact.  Originating from a hot country, the hot ground is also something to protect dogs feet from!  

    It is interesting to know how the salt, antifreeze, and deicer can also affect dogs.  I would normally avoid walking on the salt but had never realized with antifreeze and deicer.  Would you recommend an immediate visit to vets if ingested?

    Joanne  

    • Lynne says:

      Hi Joanne, Yes the hot ground can be just as devastating to dog’s paws as the cold. Hot ground, pavement, and tar streets can cause burns and blisters. If your dog ingests anti-freeze would definitely get them to the vet as soon as possible!

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