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 (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.
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.
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 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:
- shallow breathing
- 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,
Have any favorite dog boots or coats you would like to recommend?
Share your thoughts and stories with other readers in the comments below!