How to protect dog paws in winter [7 must-know tips]

If you are asking, “how do I protect my dog’s paws in the winter?”, you are in the right place. Living in Wisconsin, our winters are brutal… so I am very aware of how the snow, ice, and below zero temps can affect our dog’s paws. 

Every winter I worry about protecting our dog paws. Paws can freeze, become dry and cracked… not to mention all that toxic salt they pick up on their paws!  

dog running in snow

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My 7 quick tips to protecting dog paws in winter:

  1. Wear winter dog booties
  2. Use dog paw wax
  3. Clean your dog’s paws after walks
  4. Keep your dog’s nails trimmed
  5. Keep paw hair trimmed
  6. Use a non-toxic ice-melt
  7. Keep walks short and watch the temperature

1. Wear winter dog booties

Putting winter dog booties on your dog may be the best way to protect dog paws in snow, ice, and salt, but it may not be the easiest.

Most dogs, my three included, do not like things on their feet. You will most likely need to do some conditioning training, to get your dog comfortable wearing booties. 

It’s important to get the right size that fits your dog’s paws. Anything too big or too small can do more harm than good. 

If you are handy with a sewing machine, you can try to make your own winter dog boots. I found this great tutorial How to Make Dog Booties.

dog paw with musher's secret

2. Apply dog paw wax or balm

I love, love, love Musher’s Secret!  It’s so easy to use and works great at protecting our dog’s paws. Plus it moisturizes dry and cracked paw pads.

I first learned about Musher’s Secret when our dog, Bear, tore his paw pads from climbing in and out of a rocky lake bottom. I coated his paw pads with the Musher’s Secret and wrapped his paws with gauze for several days until they healed. (see photo below)

injured paw pad on dog

Musher’s Secret was developed for sled dogs, so you can be assured that this stuff will work for your dog! It’s like an invisible winter boot for your dog. Musher’s Secret is all-natural and protects from the heat, cold, and chemicals.

Musher’s Secret recommends applying 1-2 times a week year-round, and more often during extreme weather conditions, such as cold, snow, and ice. We personally only apply it to our dog’s paws occasionally throughout the year, and maybe once a week during the winter.

If you want to try a DIY Dog Paw Wax check out this recipe from Planet Paws.

Related: Avoid These 13 Scary Winter Dangers for Your Dog

3. Clean your dog’s paws after walks

You can’t control the chemicals people use to melt the ice on your community sidewalks and roads. These chemicals can be toxic to your dog, so it’s important to clean your dog’s paws as soon as you get home.

If they come inside, walk all over the carpet they could leave salt deposits inside your home! Plus, most dogs will lick their paws clean, possibly ingesting those toxic salt chemicals.

After taking a walk outside in the winter slush, simply clean your dog’s paws with a warm soapy washcloth or keep a box of pet wipes at the door for convenience.

I bought Earthbath Grooming Wipes last winter, which was convenient to pull a wipe out after our walks. But with three dogs it’s more economical to use a washcloth.

While you are cleaning your dog’s paws, examine his pads, nails, and between the toes for any cuts or foreign objects. Regularly checking your dog’s paws will help keep him healthy.

Woman Is Cutting Nails Of Dog

4. Keep nails trimmed

Trimming your dog’s nails is vital all year long, not only to protect your dog’s paws in the winter

I dread trimming our dog’s nails, and I’m sure most of you do too. But if you allow the nails to get too long, there are so many other issues that can occur. Dog nails can break when running on the ice or snow, causing injury to the paw.

If you aren’t comfortable trimming your dog’s nails, I highly suggest bringing her to a groomer or vet. Don’t let the nails get too long, it’s not worth all the health and safety risks.

5. Trim paw hairs

If your dog has long hair, it’s likely the hair between the paw pads is long too. Trimming this hair helps keep snow and chemicals from getting impacted inside the paw pad area. You can simply trim with small scissors or an electric shaver.

6. Use a non-toxic ice-melt

While you cannot control what your neighbor’s use, you can control your own driveway and sidewalk. Using a pet-safe ice melt or sand will lower the risk of your dog bringing any inside your house.

I still recommend cleaning their paws after spending any time outside around ice melt.

7. Keep walks short and watch the temperature

One of the most important tips to protect your dog’s paws in winter is to take shorter walks. Instead of one long walk, split it up into several walks during the day.

It’s important to pay attention to the temperature outside. Use a weather app on your phone to get an estimated time for frostbite. 

Stay inside on dangerous weather days. Play some of our indoor game ideas with your dog instead of heading out in the frozen tundra!

Overall, just use common sense. If it’s too cold for you, it may be too cold for your dog. I understand some dog breeds live for the snow and cold weather… so just be careful and watch your dog for any signs of distress.

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P.S. I’d love to hear how you protect your dog’s paws in winter and snow. Please leave a comment below and help others in our Rescue Dogs 101 Community.

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About the Author Debi@RescueDogs101

Debi McKee is a mom of three kids, two dogs and the creator of Rescue Dogs 101... where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She also volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society.

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