There are many challenges for our dogs in cold winter weather, but people don’t always consider the problem of ice balls! These hard balls can form under and between our dogs toes when they go outdoors.
When a dog leaves a warm indoor environment and goes outside into very cold temperatures, he can get ice balls on his feet. Because dogs have sweat glands in their toes, the moisture there can form into balls of ice from the abrupt change in temperature. These ice balls can be so uncomfortable that a dog will hop or limp, and they can even bruise or cut the foot pad as they try to walk on the ice ball.
* To keep your dog’s feet comfortable in the winter you’ll need to add a cold weather personal grooming chore to your calendar: removing the hair between the foot pads.
* Get a pair of small, round-tipped dog-hair scissors from a pet supply store: they resemble the ones men use to snip their nose hairs, but they’re tougher, for thick dog hair.
* Some dogs have hair growing between their toes or the pads at the bottom of their feet – hair that can cause trouble if you live where there is ice and snow.
* Ice and snow won’t be able to build up if you snip the hair tufts from between the footpads.
* To get your dog to enjoy his pedicure (or encourage a reluctant pooch to allow you to handle his feet with the scissors) you can sit on the floor with your dog and encourage him to lie down next to you.
* Have a jar of Halo Liv-a-Littles open next to you.
* With every snip you make with the scissors, give him a small piece of the freeze-dried chicken, beef or salmon.
* Tell him what a good boy he is in a soothing tone of voice, offering him a piece of Liv-a-Little as long as he remains calm and cooperative.
* If your dog cannot lie still for all four feet, try doing one paw at a time and then taking a break to play.
Coat the bottom of your dog’s feet
If you live in a very cold climate, you can avoid damage to your dog’s footpads the way sled-dog trainers do, by applying a layer of protection to the bottom of his feet.
* Musher’s Secret is a brand of foot salve for use in very cold climates, but you can also spread a thin layer of petroleum jelly or aloe gel on the dog’s footpads before you head out into the bitter cold.
* You can spray Pam or a generic vegetable-oil cooking spray underneath his feet right before you go out.
* It’s advisable to apply the protective layer just outside the door or your floors might get pretty messy!
* Even if your dog licks his feet later, the reside of these products will not be harmful.
How to Get Relief from Ice Balls
* If ice does form between your dog’s toes or pads, you can give him relief with a hair-dryer.
* Put the dryer on the lowest warm setting and hold the blower at least six inches away from the dog’s foot.
* You don’t want to heat the dog’s foot, only melt the accumulated ice.
* Dry off the melted ice.
* Rinse his feet in warm water if there was any salt or ice-melting chemical on the ground outside.
* Gently rub the feet to get the circulation going.
Next week: Advice about getting your city or country dog to wear winter booties.
Tracie Hotchner is the author of THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. She is also a renowned pet radio host and producer, having spent 7 years on the Martha Stewart Channel of Sirius/XM with CAT CHAT® and even longer with her award-winning NPR radio show DOG TALK® (and Kitties, Too!) that continues to broadcast in the Hamptons and the Berkshires. Her most recent accomplishment is the pet talk radio network she has created on the Internet called The Radio Pet Lady Network.