Are your fingertips and knuckle creases cracking and splitting? The cold, dry, winter air plays havoc with our skin from now until the warm, moist air returns in the spring.
Dog and cat owners notice how the dry air affects the animals’ skin, as well. We see more hair loss through grooming, more scratching, and usually some dandruff.
Their skin gets dry and itchy, and their pads can become dry. You’ll probably notice more paw-licking in the winter. That dryness leads to discomfort or pain. And it’s not just the cold, dry air that dog and cat owners need to be concerned about.
The cold, wet ground following a rain or snow storm can be especially problematic. There was a time when the mere mention of booties for dogs brought eye rolls. But as their value has become more obvious, the booties have become more popular. Not all dogs will wear booties, but for those that will, the feet, especially the pads, will be nicely protected.
Some dogs get cranky when you mess with their paws, and especially their pads, which are very important to them. In addition to providing tactile information and traction, a dog’s pads balance his weight evenly, and they serve as shock absorbers, saving wear and tear on joints and muscles.
It’s helpful to keep the hair between the dog’s toes trimmed in winter. When they’re outside, ice and snow can form balls between the toes, making it difficult and painful to walk, and rendering the area vulnerable to frostbite and cuts.
The pads are naturally rough, by the way, so don’t take that alone as a signal to apply moisturizing cream. And if you do apply cream, keep in mind that some such products may contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs.
It’s safe to apply petroleum jelly or olive oil, but there are a number of commercial products formulated especially for animals.
There are also several brands of paw wax on the market. The wax is absorbed by the pads and generally won’t rub off onto carpets and furniture, and most waxes can be applied once a week unless your dog spends a great deal of time outdoors.
You can apply pet-safe moisturizers to help keep the pads as supple as possible, but just keep in mind that your dog will want to lick it off. If you rub the moisturizer in thoroughly, it will do its job and your dog won’t be able to lick it off.
After returning from a walk when there’s snow on the ground, wipe your dog’s feet, legs and stomach to wash off any salt or ice melter that he may have picked up along the way. Speaking of which, there are “pet-safe” ice melters you, and hopefully your neighbors, can use.
And if you own a Husky, Malamute, Akita or other cold climate breed, don’t think they’re immune to winter pad problems. Just ask any Iditarod musher. You should provide the same foot care that Dachshunds, Chihuahuas and other warm climate dogs need in winter.
Finally, there are diseases that can cause cracking or inflammation of the paws, so if your dog has cracked or dry pads, it wouldn’t hurt to bring that up to your vet.