How to Protect Your Dog During Winter

Winter can be tough on your dog. Depending on where you live, winter can be downright life-threatening!

We had some Arctic weather up here in Minnesota the last couple weeks which has made me really think about what we should do to protect our dogs when they need to go outside.

Some dogs are better equipped for the cold. Maui has a thick coat and undercoat and she loves the cold weather. Emma is a rat terrier and has very little body mass, a thin coat of fur, and no undercoat. I honestly can see in her eyes how much she dreads going out in the cold to go potty.

No matter how tolerant your dog is of the cold, there is one body part on every single dog that needs protection from the elements and dangers that winter brings - their paws!

Here are some ways to protect your dog during winter!

Paw Balm, Wax, and Creams

Paw balm, wax, and cream are all thick substances designed to put on your dog's paws as a protective layer between their pads and the outside winter elements (can also protect in hot weather).

Balms, waxes, and creams are designed to be a protectant, a moisturizer, and to heal your dog's paws they can also be used on other rough, exposed, and/or dry areas. Some can also be used on your dog's nose.

Massaging a layer of paw balm onto your dog's paw pads creates a semi-impermeable layer to protect those paws from anything they come in contact with.

Wax is made with a waxy substance and is designed to be more of a protectant but can also moisturize.

Balms are sometimes made with a waxy substance and sometimes not. They are a good protectant and tend to be better at moisturizing and soothing.

Creams are the thinnest of the three and provide less of a protective layer and are better for moisturizing, soothing, and healing.

How to Choose a Safe and Effective Protectant

When shopping for a paw balm, wax, or cream you want to be sure to select a product that is organic and natural, without any chemicals or ingredients that could be bad for your dog. 

Dogs will often lick at whatever you put on their feet so, the more natural the ingredients, the better it will be for your dog.

Choose a product that is "USDA certified organic" so you know if your dog licks it, the ingredients will not be toxic or harmful. 

Avoid products with zinc oxide, petroleum, or any other chemical ingredient that you can't pronounce!

Be sure to read through the ingredient list! Organic, natural balms, waxes, and lotions will have an ingredient list you can understand.

Preparing Your Dog's Paws

If your dog has long fur between their paw pads it is best to trim it down. Use a clipper to trim the fur down so it is even with the paw pads. Cesar Milan mentions that a human beard trimmer with the shortest plastic guard can work well for this purpose (although I have never tried this myself).

This will make it easier to apply the protectant to the paw pads and it will also help alleviate the formation of ice balls between the pads (they stick to the fur).

Apply a thin layer of the balm or wax right before going out for a walk.

When you return from your walk use a warm washcloth to wipe off any salt and chemicals that may have gotten on your dog's paws. If his paws appear to be cracked, dry, or hard apply a bit more balm to them to moisturize.

Dog Paw

When shopping for a paw balm, wax, or cream you want to be sure to select a product that is organic and natural, without any chemicals or ingredients that could be bad for your dog. 

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DIY Paw Balm

Want to know exactly what is in the paw balm you're using for your dog? Make your own!

Here is a super simple recipe to make your own paw balm at home.

This recipe indicates to use rapeseed oil. I don't know about you but I've never heard of rapeseed before. A great alternative and something you probably already have at home would be avocado oil, coconut oil, or olive oil.

Boots and Booties

Dog boots and booties are always a great option to keep your dog's paws clean, dry, and safe!

Maui, Emma, and I did a post on some great dog boot and bootie options that you can find here:

Protective Dog Winter Boots

Your dog may walk pretty strangely when you first put the boots or booties on their feet but it doesn't take them long to get used to it. I can't help but laugh watching Maui walking her dog booties in the house but once she gets outside and on her walk, it's like she doesn't even know she is wearing them.

I think boots and booties are a great option because you can just quickly put them on and then take them off when you get home. You don't have to worry about anything getting directly on your dog's paws.

Coats and Sweaters

I know coats and sweaters are not something to protect your dog's paws but I still felt they are worth mentioning in this article.

Some dogs are just not equipped to be out in the cold for very long. Emma can barely stand it for a couple minutes just to go outside to the bathroom much less be out there long enough to go for a walk.

If this sounds like your dog then giving them a little bit more warmth and protection can make a walk and outdoor time much more pleasurable for them.

This is our Emma wearing her little jacket. ❤️ 

Click on her picture to visit the blog post we wrote about some really great dog coat and sweater options.

Emma the dog wearing her dog coat

Protect Your Dog in the Winter

Your dog depends on you to keep them safe.

Winter provides a big set of challenges when trying to keep our dogs warm, protected and safe.

We hope you found some ideas in this blog that you can implement to make your dogs outside time a little less hazardous and a lot more fun!


Let it snow,

Maui and Emma

Do you have a great DIY recipe for paw balm or wax?

Have you tried a brand that you really love?

Share with our community in the comments below!


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