Winter in the Inland Northwest can be hard on our pets. It can be easy to miss much needed care, especially dogs with more hair. Yes, it keeps Fido warm but it can complicate coat and paw care in the snowy and sludgy weather. Luckily, there are some basic preventative measures pet owners can take to avoid these issues.
Paw balm is a product every pet owner should own. There are many commercial kinds available and it is not a hard DIY recipe if you are feeling crafty. Paw balm helps keep paws healthy and soft and acts as a protective barrier to ice, snow, salt and toxic de-icer. It can be used on noses to keep them from cracking. Always apply it on clean paws before going outside, after coming in and as often as needed. Remember to wash paws before re-applying.
Keeping your dog’s hair trimmed on their paws is very important. This can usually be done at the grooming salon as a walk-in service or at home with a beard trimmer. Keeping the hair trimmed short prevents large ice-balls forming in between nails and pads. Ice-balls should not be left alone if they do form. Do not let dogs lick their paws or ice-balls as they could easily have toxic de-icer in them. Wash the paws and areas of the coat that have ice-balls with warm water to dissolve, using a blow-dryer or dryer warmed towel to help melt. After removing ice-balls, re-apply paw balm. It is always a good idea to keep towels, cleaning spray, balm and absorbent microfiber mat near entries to help with clean up.
Keeping nails short and trimmed is always recommended. This prevents the feet from splaying. Inspect nails to make sure they are not cracking or splitting on ice. If your dog has many paw issues it might be worth it to invest in dog booties. Some dogs will tolerate them and some won’t, but it can be an option.
Winter is not the time to slack off on brushing your dog’s coat, especially as many tend to leave their dogs coats longer over winter. Brush often to prevent mats and to stimulate circulation. Keep the coat cleaned and conditioned. Water will make mats tighten and become worse so always brush out before bathing. Use warm towels or if your dog will tolerate, a blow dryer after the bath. Never send a wet dog outside in the cold. Most grooming salons offer bath only services if you are not able to brush and bathe in your home.
The final part of winter care is being aware of the dangers outside. Don’t let dogs drink from puddles due to de-icer run off, stay away from heavily salted sidewalks if possible and don’t let dogs scamper over semi- frozen lakes or rivers. Keep Fido well hydrated and always dry after outdoor excursions. Exercising in the cold consumes more calories so feed accordingly.
Following these tips will help keep Fido healthy, warm and safe this winter season.