How to Protect Your Pup’s Paws from the Winter Elements

Walking in a winter wonderland sure is pretty, but it can wreak havoc on those precious paws.

That’s why it’s so important — especially through the cold winter months — to protect your four-legged friend as you venture outside for those daily walks.

Dr. Kiko Bracker of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty’s Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston shared her top tips for helping your dog brave the elements.  

1.  Use only certified pet-safe ice melt on drives and walks – and no more than is absolutely necessary.  Ice melt is nothing to mess around with. “Ice melts typically contain ingredients that can be irritating to the skin and gastrointestinal tract, and could also potentially result in more severe effects including depression, weakness, disorientation, low blood pressure, cardiac problems, seizures, coma and even death depending on the type of ice melt and circumstances of exposure,” says Bracker. So, read labels and select products that won’t hurt your furry friend.

2.  If you live in an area that is exceedingly cold, requiring the use of a significant amount of ice melt, consider getting paw covers for your dog.  You wouldn’t walk barefoot on ice melt, and neither should your pets — so a pair of booties could be the barrier they need. “These can act like mittens and not only do they keep our dogs’ paws warm in the snow, they protect against the accumulation of ice melt on our pets’ foot pads,” Bracker explains.

3.  Always wipe your dog’s foot pads and stomach fur after they come in from the snow. It’s a good idea to keep a towel or other kind of absorbent wipe by your front door so your pup can immediately dry off after a romp through the white stuff. It helps warm them up faster and can help remove anything harmful they may have stepped in.

 4. Save long walks for warmer days. The cold weather months aren’t the time for setting dog-walking world records. “Keep winter time walks as short as necessary and opt to let your dog play in the snow in the fenced in backyard if you have one – dogs love the snow and un-shoveled areas typically are at low risk for contaminants such as ice melt,” she adds.

5. Remember to think about more than just your dog’s paws.  Now is the time to stock up on matching coats and scarves for you and your pup — for the sake of social media (of course!) and safety. “Cold weather can be just as dangerous for our dogs as it is for us,” Bracker says. “Our golden rule is: if we’re cold then our dogs likely are, too.  So keep outside time to a minimum and at the first sign of shivering, bring your pooch back inside to warm up.”

To see more resources for pet owners, visit the MSPCA’s website.

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Amy Jamieson

A former senior editor for, Amy launched People Pets for People magazine in 2008. Now she writes about pets, lifestyle and more from her bucolic saltbox in Collinsville, Connecticut, usually with a cat in her lap and a dog at her feet.

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