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Winter is just around the corner with her promise of chilly temperatures, snow and ice, and caring for your dog’s paws is critical to keeping them healthy.

What do dog owners need to know about their pup’s paws? I asked Charlotte-based veterinarian Joy Fine for some advice. “Protecting dogs in cold weather can be a challenge for owners,” she says. “In colder areas, some dogs will find it difficult to walk and their feet may cramp up and dogs may lay down in the snow and have a difficult time getting back into a safe, warm area. My last dog was a Bullmastiff.  In northern Ohio, if the temperature was 10 degrees Fahrenheit or below it would be difficult for her to stand outside for more than a few minutes without her legs cramping, causing her to fall on her side… I found it helpful to use a towel as a sling to help lift her up and get her inside.”

Dog owners can also invest in booties or paw pad salve to help minimize paw discomfort. But Joy warns that “some dogs refuse to wear boots and the salve only protects the paw pads, not the nails or the rest of the foot from the cold.”

Consider shoveling snow to clear a path for your dog when taking her outside. Veterinarian Joy has clients that even “
keep a length of indoor/outdoor carpeting in the house then roll out the carpet along the shoveled area so that their dogs will have a warm path to use on their way to go to the bathroom… This prevents the cramping paws.”

When walking your dog during the winter months, avoid trekking through streets that have been salted or coated in chemical de-icers. Upon returning home, thoroughly wipe your dog’s paws and wash them if they may have come in contact with chemicals. Be sure to check between the toes for ice lumps or rock salt, and use this opportunity to evaluate the length of the nails (and trim if necessary).

Learn more about canine health on 
Nat Geo DOGS and head to the forums to share your favorite cold weather care tips!

Photo Credits: Jodi Kendall