How to Protect Your Dog's Paws This Winter

The winter is tough on dogs’ paws. While paws are built to endure rough terrain and freezing temperatures, they’re not indestructible. Frost, snow, ice and even salt can cause soreness, irritation or injury. Dogs which are bred to thrive in year-round ice and snow, like Akitas and Huskies, will have thick pads which can withstand colder temperatures. But regardless of breed, all paws need a little extra protection in winter.

What are the most common dangers for dogs in winter?

red dog in snow topped bushes

Before we tackle the best ways to protect your dogs’ paws this winter, what dangers should you be aware of when walking your dog?

Rock Salt and Grit

As temperatures drop, we’re likely to see more and more grit, rock salt and sand spread on pavements, roads and footpaths. While we fully support making our streets safer for walkers, these de-icers can be potentially toxic to dogs. Salt, grit and other chemicals can cause itchy, cracked paws. It can also work its way between your dog’s toes, causing tissue damage.

As dogs will often lick their paws after being outside, there’s also a risk of poisoning which can cause vomiting, seizures and kidney damage.

Frostbite

Do dogs get cold feet? Their anatomy is incredibly clever, as their arteries bring warm blood from their hearts to their paws – keeping them toasty for longer. But just like us, they can still get frostbite after prolonged contact with cold temperatures.

During winter be aware of changes to the colour of your dog’s paws, swelling, blisters and pain. Your dog will likely tell you when their feet start to get too cold, picking their feet up or whimpering. But to reduce the risk, avoid long walks in freezing temperatures.

Ice and Snow

white dog playing with red hoop in snow

While dogs paws can withstand walking on snow and ice for short periods, be aware of ice balls and compacted snow forming between your dog’s paws and toes. Ice balls will cling to your dog’s fur, especially long-haired breeds. As it often takes time for the ice or snow to melt, this can cause extreme pain and ice burn.

Just imagine having snow in between your fingers or toes… ouch!

Rain

Believe it or not, even rain can cause problems for dogs paws without care and attention. Often in winter, it takes longer for paws dry than in warmer months, especially if you own a hairy dog. Long-haired breeds combined with a love of the outdoors can equal bacteria build-ups in winter.

Wet paws that breed bacteria can lead to itchy paws, soreness and potential infections.

Top tips for protecting your dog’s paws through winter

small dog with paw up and tongue out

Aside from being aware of the risks when walking your dog, paw maintenance is essential. Here are our top winter paw care tips to keep your dog’s paws healthy and protected:

Wash paws after walks

Washing paws after walks will keep your dog’s feet clean and help you check for potential injuries. Rinse with warm water, paying extra attention between the pads and toes. Particularly crucial in icy conditions, use warm water to remove any compacted snow or ice balls carefully.

Gentle anti-bacterial dog shampoo will wash away potential chemicals, grit and rock salt. When you're on the go, spritz anti-bacterial spray onto a cloth and wipe the paws to eliminate any bacteria. Both ensure your dog doesn’t ingest any toxins when licking their paws.

Keep nails trimmed

Breed, activity and genetic factors all affect how often your dog’s nails need trimming. But during winter you may find that your dog’s nails need more regular trims. As surfaces become wetter and softer, they won’t wear down your dog’s nails as much. Keeping nails short will help your dog maintain their balance on ice and snow. Especially important for all the outdoors zoomies!

dachshund legs on white background

Trim fur between pads

Breed, activity and genetic factors all affect how often your dog’s nails need trimming. But during winter you may find that your dog’s nails need more regular trims. As surfaces become wetter and softer, they won’t wear down your dog’s nails as much. Keeping nails short will help your dog maintain their balance on ice and snow. Especially important for all the outdoors zoomies!

Protect and moisturise paws with paw balm

It’s not always possible to avoid the dangers of winter, particularly when it comes to grit, rock salt and sand. Paw balm is an essential item in any winter paw care kit. Applying paw balm to your dog’s paws before walks will protect them from potential damage caused by chemicals and toxins.

Used regularly, it’ll also help to soothe itchy or cracked paws, eliminate bacteria and keep them nourished all year-round.

Whether your dog loves outdoor adventures in all weathers or curling up on the sofa, protecting your dog’s paws this winter will prepare them for what’s to come.

Written by Sarah Leeds