(Reprinted, with edits, from 10.22.15)
As winter snows approach, so does the inevitable question for dog owners: What is the right way to winterize a pet’s paws?
Brackett Street Veterinary Clinic’s certified vet techs say booties are a viable option, with one important caveat: Don’t leave your dog’s feet covered for extended periods. Like a pair of sweaty socks on a person, booties that have been on too long keep a dog’s footpads too moist, a condition that can lead to infections or sores. Put on and take off your pet’s ’shoes’ every time you go for a walk.
This can seem like a lot of work, considering that most dog owners bring their dogs outside a few times a day. How do you know when and if you need booties?
It depends. Cold and snow are far less dangerous to canines than one other prevalent winter phenomenon: ice melt. Road (and sidewalk) salt commonly contains sodium chloride, calcium chloride and other chemicals, all of which when ingested by a pet (by licking the feet after walking unprotected) can cause vomiting and diarrhea, among other ailments. Booties prevent this.
For those who don’t like the looks of booties or the chore of putting them on and taking them off, or when dogs don’t like them, there are other options. The folks at Brackett Street recommend a product called Musher’s Secret Wax. Musher’s is made of natural waxes, has a soft consistency, and when applied to the footpads and fur between the toes, performs the same function as dog booties, keeping ice melt off the foot pads. The wax also prevents the formation of ice balls and the discomfort that those bring.
However, booties and Musher’s are only two out of many options. Just being extra aware can help you avoid the whole issue. Mainer and dog owner Tony L. said he and his wife tried booties on their dog Chowder after her feet got rubbed raw by snow and crust as she trail-blazed during winter walks. But the dog had an opinion of her own.
“She wasn’t down with it,” he said. “She kept trying to bite them off.”
They wound up keeping Chowder on trails where the snow was packed, and away from salty roads during peak snow plow season. No poisonous ice melt, no rawness, and now the whole family is happy.