Living in beautiful Austin, do dog’s paws get cold in the winter? That is an excellent question! Yes, they most certainly do! The average winter temperatures in Austin, Texas range from 40 degrees Fahrenheit to a pleasant 73 degrees Fahrenheit. While considered mild, other parts of the country can be bitterly cold with temps dipping down below zero. We are bringing this to the forefront of your attention because winter is a peak travel time when we pack up the kids and family dog, bound for friends and family’s houses for the holiday season. So, what is frostbite and how can you protect your dog’s paws from chafing and frostbite?
Frostbite is caused when the blood vessels to the skin begin to constrict due to extreme cold, or prolonged exposure to the cold. This is the body’s protection mechanism to preserve the body’s core temperature. So if 40 degrees doesn’t sound cold to you, try sleeping outside all night in nothing but your birthday suit. No matter the breed or thickness or your dog’s fur, NEVER keep your pet outside in the winter. Sensitive areas like their ears and paws can easily become frostbitten, especially when the cold is combined with wind and moisture. It’s important to emphasize that dogs with heart disease, diabetes, or with reduced blood flow are at higher risk for frostbite.
Chafing in the winter time is caused by moisture on the dog’s paws. The source of moisture can be from several things including rain, snow or ice, moist winter dog boots and even from when dogs lick their feet. Their toes repetitively rub together with this moisture, which can leave the skin raw and exposed leading to frostbite and/or infection. Notably, this can happen with or without dog boots if their paws are left damp.
Unfortunately, the cold is not an exclusive worry. Pavement deicers can be extremely dangerous to our dog. Pavement rock salt or snow melt salts are corrosive by nature causing chemical burns and irritation to unprotected paws. In addition, dogs tend to lick their paws and swallow, ingesting the chemical – based salts. Ingestion of melted snow and ice containing these salts can cause severe burns, ulceration and toxicity. Just because you use “pet safe salt”, doesn’t mean the local highway department, neighbors or businesses do.
An ounce of Prevention is worth a pound of cure. There are many proactive steps that you can take to protect our four-pawed friends. Dog boots are a versatile choice that can be used in the winter as well as summer for walking on hot pavement. Take care to dry their boots between outings. Be sure to keep a towel nearby the door to thoroughly dry off your dog and his paws when he comes in. Using proper protective barrier emollients on the paws like Musher’s Secret is excellent in all seasons. Remember; if you’re cold, your dog is probably cold too. So dress your dog warmly and check their paws frequently for irregularities. Importantly, know the signs of frostbite.