It’s getting close to wintertime, and people are starting to ask about boots for dogs again. I know we touched on this in "Winterizing your Pet," (published Oct. 9) but let’s go a little deeper today.
Yes, you can buy boots for just about any dog — there are sizes and styles that can work for almost every breed. But, far more than with people, dogs have differently-shaped feet. So fitting them is even harder than it is for us.
There are many styles of footwear for dogs: a simple sock, a rubber balloon type, arctic fleece booties, leather "mukluk" styles or even a hard-soled Ugg or sneaker-type boot. Which one fits your dog’s shape of foot, ankle and leg and its walking style can be difficult to figure out, and may take a number of tries before you find the style that works for your needs.
But even the best-fitting boot has to survive the dog wanting to keep it on. Some learn quickly what a boon footwear can be, and relish having them put on, because they know it’s "walky time" when the boots come out. But many dogs will immediately try to remove the boot, or will lay down and start chewing at them. There are bitter sprays that can help stop the chewing, and many times they will get used to them, but sometimes, even the most concerted effort meets with failure.
In those instances, there are options for making sure your dog’s "bare" feet stay in good condition through the winter season. Proper pad care is essential. Protecting and conditioning the pads through the use of waxes and creams can prevent drying and cracking. Salt can make a dog lick its paws, and that can lead to cracking as well. Dry, cracked pads make walking in winter torture for a pet. So, cleaning the dog’s paws after walking is just as important in winter as it is in spring.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but it is amazing how much of a difference food can make in so many areas of your pets health, and winter conditions make this even more evident. Good foods make for a healthy coat to keep the dog warm, and tough, but supple pads to stand up to harsh walking conditions. Sometimes the best conditioners are contained in the diet.
There is a misconception that keeping the dog’s paws furry can help keep them warm. Long fur gets wet, catches "snowballs" and ice between the pads and can make the pads itch from salt buildup. A clean foot is much easier to maintain, and the pads are easier to keep moisturized and supple. Long nails might give them a bit of traction on snow, but they are like skates in icy conditions, and every time they click on the frozen ground, it causes a painful shock up the toe.
Keeping the paws and nails trimmed can be as easy as a quick visit to a groomer for a "pawdicure." Just a few minutes invested can make a world of difference in your best friend’s walking experience.
Contact Jeff with your questions or ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.aardvarkpets.com