By Kelly Thorburn

Paws are important. Not only do they get our dogs from one place to another, they (along with noses), are how dogs sweat. To keep paws healthy, limit their exposure during extreme weather conditions. Watch for signs that your dog is uncomfortable. Shifting weight, holding up a paw, or whining on a walk can all be signs that their paws have had enough.

When you put your dog out to potty in freezing temperature, with or without snow, set a timer for two to three minutes so you don’t get sidetracked and forget to get him inside quickly. Some dogs benefit from having the hair between their pads trimmed so they don’t get snowballs between their toes. Not an issue with my Amstaffs and Malinois, but maybe your hairy dog needs this.

musher's secret paw care balm

There are lots of options available to protect paws. There are many brands of pad waxes and balms. Some include essential oils which are not safe for consumption, so do your research. You know your dog will try to lick it off! Put it on just before your walk to avoid that. My personal favorite is Musher’s Secret. It was originally designed for sled dogs working in frigid temperature for long periods. For deeper treatment, I apply it while we’re watching tv and put socks on them to prevent licking. Add booties for even more protection.

A while ago I worked as a trainer on the movie The Mountain Between Us, and we spent over three weeks on location in the snow and freezing temperatures in Invermere. The two Labradors in the film had their feet protected with wax pads and boots. I can’t tell you how many of the boots were
lost on the mountains during filming. But the pad wax did its job and protected their feet against cracking from both the cold and the salt on the sidewalks in town. Not all boots are great in deep snow, so again do your research.

Heat can be as dangerous as cold to the paws. (Just think of the times you tried walking barefoot on a sidewalk on a hot summer day!) Boots do work really well for hot temperatures. I sent a Malinois to Alabama as a Medical Alert and Service Dog. He goes everywhere with his person so proper footwear is required for all occasions. He has the cutest pair of Crocs. They are knock-offs, but your dog won’t care, and you can get them online.

In The Forever Dog, writers Karen Shaw Becker and Rodney Habib advise regular foot baths. They claim this will dramatically reduce foot licking and chewing. Fill a tub or sink with a few inches of water, enough to cover the paws. Add povidone iodine (available at drugstores and online) until the
water is the colour of iced tea. Have the dog stand in the solution for 2-5 minutes. It is an organic, non-irritating solution that is non-toxic, anti-fungal and antibacterial. Pat dry and repeat a couple of times a week to rid your dogs of all the chemicals, pollutants and allergens they pick up on their
daily rounds.