Dog Paw and Coat Care for the Winter

Caring for Your Dog’s Paws, Coat and Nose in the Winter

Winter is in full swing and, in many parts of the country, our dogs are feeling the chill during their walks and backyard play. Our skin certainly feels the drying effects of the cold, but what about our pets?

Our furry companions need special attention, too—from the tips of their cold, wet noses to the bottom of their dog paws. Learn how to protect your pup’s paws, coat and chilled nose in the winter.

How to Protect Dog Paws in Winter

During winter, the dry environment alone can cause cracking of a pet’s paw pads. To help avoid this, try using moisturizer for dog paws.

Several moisturizers for dog paws are available, including creams or lotions formulated to help soothe dry pads. Emollient lotions and waxes also are available and are designed specifically to help protect the tender, dry dog paws from the harsh winter elements.

Besides the dryness of winter, there are other ways for dog paws to get hurt and damaged this season. Ice and snow can pack and accumulate within the paw pads, causing discomfort. Ice, salt and other chemicals commonly used to melt snow can pose big problems for pets. Even exposure to non-chemical ice and snow control, like gravel or dirt, can cause cuts, splits and irritation on already tender and cold dog paws.

If you have a small dog, cutting up a lamb roll into tiny pieces is a cost-effective way to make healthy, bite-sized training treats. A 1-pound roll costs $6.98. Cut it up into the desired size, store most of it in a ziplock bag in the freezer, and leave the rest on the counter for immediate use.

For pups who are super sensitive to the outdoor elements, well-fitting dog booties might be the answer. While it might seem foreign to the dog—and funny to watch at first—dogs usually adjust to them quite quickly.

Unfortunately, the average pet parent may not realize there is a problem until they see their dog licking or chewing his paws. By the time pet parents notice this, the damage already may be done, meaning several trips to the veterinarian become necessary to relieve the irritation.

You can help avoid this by performing daily checks on your dog’s paws. Looking between the toes, under the pads and around the base of the toenails can alert you to any issues and allow for treatment before the situation gets any worse.

Protecting Your Dog’s Coat

Coat care is an important aspect of keeping your pet comfortable in the cooler weather. A freshly bathed and brushed coat will help dogs tolerate the cold weather better.

For example, moisturizing dog shampoo and conditioner can help combat the dry skin and coat, and they can cut static that can come from being outside and then entering a heated room.

Protecting Your Dog’s Nose

Your pet’s nose also needs a little bit of attention during cold days. Some dogs—usually those with darker colored noses—can experience a slight lightening of the color. This is called a “weathered nose,” which also might appear cracked and crusty.

Be Diligent about Vet Visits. “Don’t wait for the signs,” Dr. Becker stresses. Focus on “prevention first.” Pets age fast, and when it comes to illness they are programmed to mask weakness, “they’re naturally secretive.” One to two visits a year is ideal, but if you suspect a problem, don’t hesitate, and don’t self-diagnose. “In the last two years I’ve seen four or five cases where people went to the internet for help, and by the time they get to the vet it’s too late,” says Dr. Becker.

A dry, winter nose can be kept clean and healthy by applying a thin layer of coconut oil, Vaseline or similar product made specifically for pets each day. Usually, the nose will return to its original darker color in the summer months.

Just because winter is coming, doesn’t mean you and your pup can’t enjoy the outdoors. By following the above measures, you can help ensure a safe and fun playtime this season.

Teri DiMarino, ICMG, NCMG, ISCCMS, CAH, has been a professional pet stylist for over 40 years. She’s won gold medals in American and International grooming competitions and was ranked No. 1 Pet Stylist in the USA during her competition years.

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