Winter brings its own special issues for your dog's paws, and you must be vigilant in protecting your pet from pain and injury associated with trauma to their paws caused by winter weather.
Cold weather and your dog's paws
Although frostbite can occur to all dogs, smaller short haired dogs are most susceptible. Any dog can experience frostbitten paws if exposed to freezing temperatures for a long enough time, especially if their paws are wet from rain or melting snow.
Frostbite occurs when the flesh is frozen and circulation is inhibited or stopped. Paws affected by frostbite will appear white when frozen, then turn red as they thaw, eventually turning black as gangrene sets in and the flesh begins to die.
Amputation may be necessary at this point to save the dog's life. If your dog develops frostbite, run warm (not hot) water over the area, and don't rub the affected area in an attempt to restore circulation. Take the dog to the nearest veterinarian as soon as possible.
Drying and cracking
Dogs' paws will become dry and cracked just as their human owners' hands in the cold dry winter air. Of course, dogs need to walk on their paws, so every step can be a painful one. You should use a paw moisturizer on your pet before cracking occurs. When you begin to need a moisturizer, your dog's paws will need it also, but don't use a human skin moisturizer because it will soften the paws too much and leave them more susceptible to injury.
Sharp pieces of ice can slice your dog's paw pads, while small pieces can become embedded in the pads or between the toes. Smaller cuts can be treated with a regular antiseptic, but larger deeper cuts will require a visit to a veterinarian for treatment.
Other issues with your dog's paws in winter
Rock salt and ice melt from roads and driveways can cause cuts or chemical burns to your dog's paws. This can occur on the bottom pads or between the toes, so your dog's paws should be inspected each time it is allowed outside when these chemicals are used.
Excessive claw growth
Because your dog is often trapped indoors more often because of wintry weather, you should keep an eye on their claws. If you can hear your dog's steps clicking on the floor as it walks, it needs a pedicure.
You can do it yourself, but you must be careful to avoid the quick, which is a series of blood vessels and nerves that are present inside the claws. The quick is more evident in lighter-colored claws as a brighter area of the claw closer to the paw.
Darker-colored claws should be clipped in very small cuts until a lighter-colored area appears inside the claw, which indicates that the quick is near. If you happen to cut the tip of the quick, there will be some bleeding, but it should stop within a short period of time.
However, cutting the quick is very painful, and may result in difficulty finding your dog the next time you pull out the nail clippers. Amateur claw cutting is best performed as a team effort, with one person holding and comforting the dog, and the other person cutting the claws.
For more information, contact West Lake Animal Hospital or a similar location.