Ice Burns & Pad Damage: When we think about burns, we usually think of damage caused by hot surfaces or fluids. Rarely do we stop to think about the damage that can be caused by the cold (for example ice burns from walking on icy surfaces for any distance) or by chemicals (such as battery acid or salt) which can equally burn the flesh.
The winter time is certainly the most dangerous for these types of burns, just as the summer plays havoc with doggy paws when the pavements/sidewalks heat up. If your dog’s paws do become irritated, make sure then are completely clean and dry and then apply something like Aveeno moisturising oatmeal cream or Aloe Vera to soothe and calm the irritation. I would, however, have to say that prevention is certainly better than the cure. If you know that your dog will be walking on icy or heavily salted surfaces, please consider protecting their pads before you start.
The easiest form of protection to consider is a wax that your can apply to the pads to provide a protective layer on the tissue. This wax has been used effectively for many years by mushers and sled dogs who find the ice an occupational hazard. There are several varieties of wax available but something such as Musher’s Secret Paw Wax is ideal for this kind of job (and no, I’m not on commission!) This product is also perfect for protecting the pads when running on rough terrain or giving the dog grip when he is walking on a slippery flooring such as ceramic tiles.
Please do not try to use any techniques to harden the skin on the pad. A hard pad will lose it’s elasticity and will not cope with uneven surfaces and in fact is likely to crack and cause the dog much pain and discomfort. It is far better to keep the pad fit, healthy, moisturised and elastic, the way it’s supposed to be.
Another way of protecting your dog’s paws, particularly if you already know that they are sensitive to the cold or have perhaps had a recent injury to the pad, is to use canine boots. There are many versions available and the price range for the different products varies considerably. I would suggest spending a reasonable amount on them if you want them to last as I have found, with my Ridgebacks, that you really do get what you pay for. I spent £50 on a set and they didn’t even last a full season before they fell apart.
When ordering your dog’s boots, have him stand on a bit of paper so that his weight is distributed properly on his paw as it will be when he is walking normally. Then, draw around the outline of the paw. Measure across the width of the foot print and generally this should enable you to purchase the correct size for your dog. Remember that their front feet will be bigger than their back feet so you will need to order two different sizes per dog. A boot that goes higher up the leg and is securely fastened with Velcro will usually save you a lot of fuss and hassle and prevent them falling off, particularly in deep snow or when running.
A few years ago now, the ice seemed to last for ever and on one occasion I noticed tiny spots of blood on the ice. On closer inspection I was horrified to find that Axl had freezer burns to one of his pads and every step he took was shredding a layer of tissue from his paw, but as I always carry vetwrap with me, I was able to fashion a temporary bootie to cover his foot and allow him to finish the last mile of our walk comfortably. Once home, I was straight on the internet to order him some boots of his own to save him from future discomfort. I took some videos at the time of him getting used to his boots (just click on the links below and I apologise for the quality particularly of the first one but it’s certainly worth a watch even so!) – yes they’re funny, and yes I did feel mean subjecting him to this level of humiliation but it was all in a good cause. My aim in showing you these videos is hopefully to illustrate that although they may seem alien to your dog and you will feel that he’ll never get used to them, please be patient and give him time to adapt.
This video was taken the very first time he ever tried them on
By 10 minutes he was already happy to wear the boots, had stopped goose-stepping and was enjoying running about on his walk without a second thought.