Q: How do I protect my dog's paws in snow?

Mary T.

My dog refuses to wear booties in the snowy winter and gets ice balls between his toes and painful salt burns on his feet. What do you think of Vaseline® (petroleum jelly) for winter walking?

Chosen Answer

Protecting a dog's paws in snow is important. But petroleum jelly is not the best solution for winter dog feet, although it does have its uses.

The keratin material in the pads of dogs’ feet is amazing stuff — tough and flexible for “barefoot” walking where we humans need shoes. And grippy for traction on slippery surfaces yet porous enough for the dogs to sweat through the pads of their feet. The pads build up calluses when the going gets tough — but sometimes thick, brittle calluses develop painful cracks. That’s when your veterinarian might recommend petroleum jelly to help pads heal. (Badly cracked pads can indicate underlying medical problems so don’t neglect them).

For snow and ice repellency, Vaseline® is not ideal for two reasons: It will soften the keratin pads (that’s why you put petroleum jelly on chapped lips) and it has to be removed when the dog comes home and into the house.

Here’s a better solution for dog walking in a winter wonderland. Trim away excess hair that accumulates ice balls. Stop and check your dog’s feet frequently — before he starts to limp. Apply a special wax product (Musher’s Secret is one such brand) to healthy (not badly cracked) pads for extra protection.

Avoid salted area on winter walks, and use pet-safe ice-melting products around your house.

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