Protecting Your Senior Dog's Paws in Winter

Protecting Your Senior Dog’s Paws in Winter

By Dave Eckholm

It’s cold out there! The cold air dries out the skin and burns the flesh of the most hearty winter lover. If you have a dog, you may have considered their comfort by providing a doggie coat. But what toll does the ice and snow take on their paws?

As a dog ages, he will become more susceptible to the elements. We found this out with our dog, Tikki a year or two ago. It was a bitter cold morning with a subzero temperature and unbelievable wind-chill. Tikki trotted off across our yard to do his business in private, as was his custom. A moment or two later, he sat down and raised a front paw. We were used to seeing this behavior as he does this in the summer when he has a prickle stuck in his paw. He will sit down and wait until we come and take it out. But there were no thistles on the snow pack. A moment later, when he lifted his other paw we knew his feet were hurting from the extreme cold and coaxed him toward the house. Half way to the door, Tikki stopped and sat down and lifted all four paws in the air, waiting for someone to carry him inside.

Tikki was raised in Minnesota and never exhibited this type of behavior in the cold before, but at 12 years of age, his feet couldn’t take it anymore. We now monitor the temperature before taking Tikki out. On extreme cold days, he isn’t allowed to run and romp for as long as usual. He has frequent, but very quick, trips outdoors instead.

This experience did prompt us to research how to take care of our dog’s paws in the winter weather. Most discomfort is caused by one of two problems. Ice build-up and salt.

The ice builds up in between the toes on your dog’s feet as they walk through the snow. The warm pads of your dog’s feet will warm the snow and cause it to melt. This water refreezes in the fur between the toes and builds up into uncomfortable snowballs that would feel similar to a rock in your shoe. In Tikki’s case, it probably was similar to the prickles he gets in the summer.

To avoid this, limit your dog’s exposure to cold weather, trim excess hair between the toes and consider all weather dog booties. There are many types and sizes of these boots. They are designed to be durable, comfortable and easy to put on.

The other problem that can cause trouble for a senior dog’s paws in the winter is the exposures to chemicals and salt used to melt ice. Again the wet fur between the toes will trap the salt as your dog heads up to the front door. This salt or chemicals will become irritating and dry the skin. Often the dog will try to chew or lick the paw causing further irritation as well as getting the chemicals into your dog’s system.

The best remedy for this is to avoid the use of salt and chemicals where you take your dog in and out of your home. If this is not possible, rinse your dog’s paws after they have been exposed to salt and chemicals or try dog booties.

Copyright 2006 Dave Eckholm/Old Dog Paws

Dave Eckholm is the owner and creator of, a site dedicated to the care and comfort of our old friends. As our dog Tikki began to lose his eyesight and became grey around his muzzle, we were concerned for his quality of life. As a senior dog, he started to have special needs. We searched for new ideas, resources and products to enhance his life. Old Dog Paws shares this information, including a national pet sitter directory, with all dog lovers so your friend can enjoy wonderful senior years too!

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