Do Dogs Need Boots in Winter?

"Why didn't I wear the boots Mom bought for me?!"
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In the world of dog fashion, there's a surprisingly large variety of choices in boots, from basic models that look like socks to fleece-lined with zippers and Velcro. With the thick soles nature put on your dog's feet, you may wonder if boots are a necessity.

They're Useful

If you've ever examined the pads on Biff's feet, you probably assumed that the thick pads act like the soles of your shoes, protecting him from extreme surface temperatures when he's outdoors. That's only partially true. The extreme cold of winter can be drying. Even sled dogs who thrive in wintry conditions are susceptible to foot problems, such as cracking and bleeding, brought on by running in the snow. Putting boots on Biff before a winter walk will protect his paws by keeping ice and snow from building up on the bottoms of his feet and in between his toes. They'll keep his feet warm, and his paws won't become dry and cracked. They're also useful for protecting against cuts from the sharp edges of ice that can sometimes be difficult to see, especially if they're hidden under the snow.

Additional Winter Hazards

Snow, ice and cold aren't the only wintery dangers to your dog's feet. Salt and chemicals used for deicing streets, sidewalks and driveways are dangerous to Biff's health. Salt can burn the pads of his paws, and he can become ill from licking salt or deicing chemicals off his feet. Wearing boots will keep these toxic items from coming in contact with your pooch's feet.

Getting Your Dog to Wear Boots

Not many dogs naturally take to wearing boots. It might be funny to you to watch him lift a paw at a time and shake it in an attempt to free his feet from confinement, but Biff's not laughing. He might even try to gnaw the boots off his feet the first time you put them on him, so it may take some training and some time before he gets used to them. Get the leash out when you get the boots out and try to keep his attention focused on the activity that is coming to get him to associate his boots with something he enjoys. You can also try giving him a treat after you secure each boot on one of his feet.

When Biff Goes Bootless

If you've given it a try and found that boots just aren't for Biff, there are some precautions you can take to protect his feet and keep them healthy during the winter. Keep the fur between his toes clipped so that any ice and snow it attracts is minimal. Coat Biff's pads with a commercial foot pad treatment or simple petroleum jelly before going out. These create a protective barrier between his feet and the snow, salt and chemicals that he'll be walking on. Brush the snow and ice off the bottoms of his feet periodically during your outing. Keep a container of puppy wipes just inside your front door so you can wipe his feet clean immediately after a winter walk. Or better yet: as soon as you get home, wash his feet off with warm, not hot, water and dry them thoroughly.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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