De-icers can cause your dog’s paws to dry and itch. Here’s everything you need to know about de-icer safety and walking your dog in the winter.
All sidewalk salts, with the exception of urea based de-icers, have a drying effect on animals’ paws. With repeated exposure to sidewalk salt, your dog’s paws will dry, itch and perhaps crack. Dogs that have cracked, dry paws, experience a burning sensation when they walk on sidewalk salts. Dogs that lick salt from their paws may experience stomach upset, vomiting and/or diarrhea.
All salts, if ingested in large enough quantities, are harmful to dogs, especially to dogs with kidney disease, in which case the result may be fatal. Never let your dog eat snow near-to-where sidewalk salt has been spread and never let him or her lick standing puddles on sidewalks or streets during winter where the salts can be dissolved in solution.
Potassium and magnesium based street salts are the safest for dog’s feet, but can be toxic if ingested by dogs with kidney disease. Urea based de-icers (which ironically are not made of urine, but from natural gas) are safer for animal’s feet, but are the least effective at melting snow and ice.
Your dog might not cotton to the idea of wearing boots in the beginning, but they are excellent for keeping salts off your dog’s feet. Our dog boot of choice is the Muttluk boot, a brand that comes in a variety of sizes. If your dog is new to boots, give him or her an adjustment period inside your home before going outside in the snow.
You can think of paw wax as ChapStick for the feet. Use it before a walk. The wax provides an additional barrier against the salt and moisturizes your dog’s feet in general.
You don’t need to use soap and water. Just dampen a cloth and get that salt out of the fur in between your dog’s toes, and then wipe the paw pads clean.
Toy breeds, shorthaired dogs and thinly built dogs like greyhounds appreciate the added warmth of a sweater. Some tighter fitting sweaters can actually have a calming effect on your dog. When selecting a sweater, steer clear of zippers, buttons, and appliques, all of which can be chewed and swallowed. Make sure that you can easily pass two fingers between the ‘armpit’ space and the neck of the sweater. If the sweater is a turtle neck, make sure that your dog’s collar is big enough to accommodate the additional width since the collar may have to be attached over the neck of the sweater.