It’s that time of year again – time to start thinking about foot protection for your pet. If you live in an area where the winters are mild, your little one may not need anything special to cope with the change in seasons. However, if you are in a region where temperatures drop sharply, the snow falls thick, and ice is plentiful, you’ll likely want to make certain adjustments. Below are just a few of the things you should consider when it comes to keeping your pet safe once the frosty weather arrives.
During the winter months, you should keep your pet’s nails short enough so that her paws can remain adequately protected when covered. If your dog’s or cat’s claws are overly long, it will not only lead to headaches when trying to put pet boots or socks on them, it may also cause her discomfort afterward. Whether the nails are pushed back into her foot or end up shredding the surrounding material, it is something the both of you can probably do without.
More often than not, our pet’s nails are kept longer than they should be, which is not necessarily a problem since it doesn’t take much to get them into shape. However, with winter looming on the horizon, you’ll want to sit down with your pet each week and trim them back to within a quarter-inch of the “quick,” the area inside the nail where the nerves and blood vessels end.
Hopefully, once the weather does change, the quick will have receded enough so that whatever you put on her feet will feel comfortable and fit securely. Needless to say, this will also get her used to having her nails trimmed on a regular basis, essentially killing two birds with one stone (so to speak). As with many humans, pets cope much better when there aren’t any surprises and the routines they must endure are familiar to them.
When it comes to choosing boots for your pet, there are numerous products on the market. Dogs, in particular, seem to have lots of options as far as color, material and the overall look are concerned. That said, it seems that most canine footwear has two or three Velcro straps around the ankle area to keep them in place. The bottoms often have rubberized dog pad outlines that provide stability and grip.
In terms of sizing, manufacturers typically make reference to the length of an animal’s paw from the heel to the tip of the nails when it is resting flat on the floor. The littlest canine-related sizes are tailored to breeds such as Shih Tzus and Chihuahuas, and run the gamut from small to large. For cats, of course, the starting point is typically shorter and narrower.
For the most part, boots should be viewed as the preferred method for protecting your pet’s pads and foot area since they tend to be either water resistant or waterproof, which also helps minimize exposure to the products that used to melt ice and snow. They may be insulated as well, allowing your pet to go outside even when there is plenty of white stuff on the ground without risking frostbite.
Paw socks are made for your pet to wear on days that are cold but not wet, or for elderly dogs who have weaker paw pads and are more prone to injury. They tend to be less popular than boots, though often they are merely “lite” or downgraded versions of the latter. Although the material is thinner, this can be a plus for dogs or cats who mainly wear them to avoid pad rubs.
Some pets prefer socks to boots, however, because they afford them greater mobility. If your little one refuses to walk in the bulkier footwear, teaching them how to cope with having things on their feet using socks can be a good way to start. Once they get used to walking around with coverings on their paws, they will likely be more comfortable with the idea of wearing boots.
As suggested earlier, if the ground is slushy or wet – even more so if it has been treated with chemicals or other products to make it less slippery and dangerous – then it is best for her to wear boots rather than socks. The latter are rarely waterproof and will quickly become sodden with moisture, which will also allow a potentially unsafe mixture salt-and-water mixture to seep in and irritate her feet or even put her health at risk.
Pet Pad Balm
In some cases, you might not choose to cover your pet’s paws with either socks or boots. Perhaps the weather in your area is spotty and not so difficult to handle. Maybe you only get a few snowfalls a year and they melt quickly. If you decide that your little one doesn’t need to have footwear on–or even if you do–you may still decide to give her pads a protective boost, especially after a scorching summer has come and gone.
This is where pad balms come in. You can rub these lotions or salves, which typically contain vitamin E, into your pet’s paws to soothe the cracking that hot weather can cause, heal blisters, and otherwise keep her foot in good shape. One brand that has been around for a while, Musher’s Secret, is well known for mending splits and cracks within a relatively short period of time.
In the end, whether you choose to use some sort of protection on your little one’s feet is up to you. If you decide against it, you should wipe off her pet pads before she comes into the house, or even carry a cloth or towel with you to ease any irritation she might be experiencing while you are out and about. As alluded to earlier, the products used to deice sidewalks often contain chemicals that are not safe for pets to be exposed to or consumed, even inadvertently.
As with other members of your family who depend on you, you won’t want to leave your pet outside in the cold and unsupervised unless she is used to such conditions or has plenty of fur between her toes. In humans and in animals, frostbite can be a very difficult malady to cure.