This is the time of year that we at Eastern Shore Veterinary Hospital see many, many foot injuries. The combination of ice, snow and a happy dog frolicking in the outdoors can, unfortunately, result in cracked pads, lacerations, or broken toenails.
There are some basic things you can do at home to help prevent injury, though of course accidents will still happen. The most important thing is to know your dogs’ limitations while outside. A tiny Shih Tzu is not going to be able to stay outside or walk as long as a St. Bernard or Newfoundland whose big broad feet are meant for the snow.
Keep your dogs’ nails trimmed to an appropriate length. A rough guide is that the tip of the nail should be even with the bottom of the pad. If you can hear your dogs’ nails clicking on the floor, they are probably too long! Long nails can catch on the ice.
Breeds with long hair on their feet should have their furry paws trimmed up and combed so that the ice and snow won’t get caught up and irritate their toes. If your dog is walking on roads and sidewalks covered in salt and sand, they should have their feet washed off when they come back in so that they don’t ingest any of the road toxins. You can use various types of commercially available booties on your dogs’ paws to protect them (if they will wear them!). Applying a layer of Vaseline works too, as well as the waxy foot products such as Mushers Secret.
If your dog snags a nail on the ice or snow outside and it is bleeding, you can apply a bit of styptic (clotting) powder if you have any, or in a pinch, a bit of cornstarch can help slow the bleeding. If part of the nail is torn and hanging below the “quick”, you may need to visit a vet, who will remove the torn portion, clean the foot and assess if antibiotics and bandaging may be needed. If your dog has cut his paw pad, if it is a small shallow cut, without any bleeding, you can clean the paw and loosely apply some gauze or a cotton sock. Watch for discharge, swelling, or discomfort, and try and limit activity for a few days. If it is a deeper cut and is bleeding freely, a visit to the vet is best so it can be evaluated to see if sutures are needed.
The other issue we often see are dogs who lick their paws a lot. In the winter, this may be due to irritation to the feet from the snow. Washing or wiping their feet with a wash cloth or pet wipe when they come in for the night can help remove irritants. Dogs that constantly lick their feet are prone to yeast infections in between their toes so keeping the feet clean and dry can help.
Call us or drop in if you have questions about your dogs’ feet!
Dr. Celeste Forgeron DVM