CVMA-ACMV

Dogs Get Cold Feet in Winter Too!

November 26, 2013

It is upsetting and often perplexing when we see a pet experience signs of discomfort, even if it is short-lived and intermittent. 

Development of ice pellets in the hair between a pet’s toes can lead to pain and skin sores. The ice accumulates because the warmth of a pet's paw melts the snow that clings to it, causing the hair on the paw (especially between the toes) to become wet, refreeze, and begin to accumulate more snow. Eventually the ice pellet enlarges and causes discomfort during walking, much like a pebble in the boot would do to us. This is often aggravated by the licking/chewing pets do in an effort to remove the snow accumulation. Coating the hair between the under-side of the toes with a thin layer of petroleum jelly can help to repel the ice, just remember to wipe it off after your walk to avoid getting the household flooring greasy!

Exposure to the salt commonly used to prevent ice build-up on walkways or roadways can also cause paw discomfort. Salt can be very irritating to the feet, with excess paw hair tending to trap the salt and prolong its contact with a pet’s paws.

Fortunately, the solutions to these problems are relatively simple. Begin by trimming excess hair from between your pet’s toes. If you feel uncomfortable doing this, enlist the assistance of a professional groomer. If possible, avoid walks and other areas that have been salted and use alternate methods to prevent ice build-up on your own property, such as regular shovelling and sanding. Ensure that any residual salt is rinsed off or removed with a damp cloth once you are home, fully drying the feet afterwards. If avoidance of salt is impossible, consider the use of foot covers or “pet booties”. Several companies make different types that are easy to put on, durable, and most pets will accept them quite readily.

One word of caution though: if evidence of paw discomfort or lameness is persistent, or seen together with skin irritation, a more severe medical problem such as arthritis or a skin infection may be present and a trip to the veterinarian is in order.