Protect your dog’s paws from winter weather

Dog in the snow

When the weather is just right, snowy winter dog walks can be magical. Freshly fallen snow can make the already enticing outside world even more fun for your dog.

Chances are you’re wearing plenty of layers, a hat, boots, and mittens. And if you’re walking at night time, lights and safety reflectors are a must!

Protecting your pets from the elements and keeping them safe on winter walks is just as important.

Winter weather can pose a few risks to your dog’s well-being, particularly their paws. Snow and ice can increase your dog’s risk of frostbite and dry out their paw pads, leaving the skin chapped or cracked.

Like our chapped lips, cracked paws can be annoying and painful. Plus, built up snow and ice can irritate the sensitive skin between their toes.

Not only are the elements dangerous, sidewalk salt and chemicals can cause chemical burns to their paw pads or indigestion if your dog tries to lick it off.

But we have great news — you can protect your pet’s paws from these winter worries.

Dog in snow boots

Boots are the best way to protect your dog’s paws

Like human winter boots, dog boots protect your furry best friend’s feet just the same. They minimize contact with harsh salt or chemicals and prevent snow, ice, and salt or sand from getting lodged between their toes.

While boots are the safest option, it may take your dog some time to adjust to them. Start by allowing your dog to walk around the house or yard while wearing boots, and be sure to reward with dog treats as you go!

Giving them a tasty treat after you put on their boots helps them associate good things with the boots. When the boots go on, good things are going to happen!

Only use boots that properly fit your dog. Properly fitting boots stay in place when your dog walks or runs, but aren’t so tight they change your dog’s natural stride.

Paw balm or petroleum jelly-based products keep your dog’s paws safe and moisturized

If boots don’t feel right for your best friend, try Vaseline or a paw balm such as Musher’s Secret.

Before walks, coat the balm on your dog’s paws to create a barrier that prevents snow, ice, and salt from getting between your pup’s toes. The balm or Vaseline also keeps their paw pads hydrated.

Just be sure to have a towel handy when you get back inside to wipe it off!

Paw with no balm

Paw with no balm.

Paw with balm

Paw with balm. Be sure to thoroughly coat your dog's paw.

Wipe off your dog's paws when you come in from a walk

If your winter outing includes sidewalks or paths where salt or chemical deicers are likely to have been used, be sure to thoroughly wipe your dog's paws with a towel. Such chemicals can leave a residue on your pet's paws that's harmful to their health if licked off — and can also cause damage to their paw pads.

If you know they've come into contact with de-icing agents, you may even want to dip their paws in warm water and then towel dry for extra effectiveness.

Shovel a path in your yard to help your dog find its way

Boots or balm may feel like a bit much for each trip outside, especially those quick potty breaks. One easy way to help protect paws is to shovel a path in your yard and cover it with straw. The straw helps keep snow off those precious paws and keeps waste within reach for quick clean-ups.

No matter what option you choose, always be sure to keep paws clean, removing ice, salt, chemicals, and caked mud as soon as possible.

When temperatures plummet, winter walks aren’t always so magical. No matter the temperature, your dog will still have energy to burn! Check out these brain games to keep them entertained when you’re both cooped up inside.

Sign up for AHS email

If you found this article helpful and want more information about pet parenting, sign up for email from AHS. You'll receive behavior tips, stories about adorable, adoptable animals, and more!