This is one of those times when hindsight is 20/20, meaning that I wish I had written about this month’s topic a few months ago. I am, as they say, late to the party. The blizzard will soon be behind us, and with any luck, we’ll avoid additional major winter weather events. That said, I’m hoping my advice will still be helpful in future snow and ice situations.

When it is particularly cold, wet, snowy, or icy outside, I’m willing to bet that 100% of my readers protect their feet. In deep snow, I’m guessing the majority of you reach for heavy-duty boots. And yet, I often hear people talking about footwear and paw protection for dogs as though it’s a bit whimsical or silly. Let me assure you, protecting our paws is anything but foolish! In fact, it’s vital for our well-being in extreme conditions.

Fortunately, there are many products that can help us fight the paw perils of winter. I’ll start with using the right kind of ice melt on steps and walkways. Unfortunately, many de-icing products contain strong chemicals that pose two serious threats to our health. One concern is that our pads can suffer chemical burns from ice melts. The other issue is that we can ingest that toxic ice melt when we lick our paws. The solution is to use melting agents that are designated as safe for pets. These products are widely available now, and you should make them your go-to for de-icing surfaces around your home.

Keep in mind, however, that some people may walk their dogs in areas that have been treated with dangerous substances. It is all too common for shopping centers or housing communities not to use pet-safe products. If that’s your situation, just remember to have a warm, damp washcloth at the ready when you come in from walking your dog. Wipe his or her paws thoroughly before settling back into the house.

Even better, however, are the many paw protection products on the market today. One of my favorites is Musher’s Secret, which is a balm that our people can put on our pads before we go out. The wax protects us from getting chemical burns while also preventing painful ice balls from forming between our pads. There are other wax balms that compete with Musher’s Secret, and any of them will do the trick. Just be sure that the one you choose is safe for pets. And remember to still wipe your dog’s paws after walking to remove any chemicals that might still be on the waxy surface.

I’m also a fan of boots or socks, regardless of how funny they might look. The trick is getting footwear to stay on our paws. This can be a challenge with heavy boots. PAWZ makes waterproof, glove-like rubber booties that do a great job of staying put. There are also dog socks that, while not waterproof, can still provide a barrier between our paws and the elements.

The main goal is to remember that our paws are important to our overall well-being. You should be as concerned about our feet as you are about your own. By the way, that’s true in the heat as well as the cold. Hot pavement can be very dangerous for us! And the right footwear or paw balm can do wonders in extremely high temperatures too.

As you can tell, this is a topic that I feel pawticularly passionate about! (Don’t judge until you’ve walked a mile in my booties.)

Albert, a Jack Russell Terrier, is Chairman of the Board of Wylie Wagg, a shop for dogs, cats, and their people, with locations in VA and DC.

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