Most dogs love a good romp in the snow -- and winter exercise is important for their health as well as yours. But anyone who has ever taken a dog out knows that snow and those hard little ice balls -- not to mention ice melt -- can ruin your dog's good fun.
The easiest way to keep snow and/or ice balls from getting clumped in your dog's paws is to keep the hair between the pads trimmed neatly during winter months. Snow collects in the hair and then melts, creating ice balls that stick on the bottom of your dog's feet. Also keep nails trimmed because longer nails force the paw to splay out, which makes it easier for snow and ice to accumulate between the paw pads.
To keep snow and ice from getting clumped in your dog's paw pads, you can apply popular paw waxes, such as Musher's Secret, before a walk. The wax provides a protective barrier between your dog's paws and the sidewalk, but you need to reapply it each time you take your pup out.
Dog booties, consisting of a sock-like boot with a Velcro strap, are designed to protect pads and paws from ice, salt and de-icers. Some booties have soles, which provide extra traction. You can buy booties at most pet stores and online. However, not all dogs like the feel of having them on their feet. Make sure boots fit properly and give your pooch a few "practice sessions" to get him used to the new footwear.
Snow and ice aren't the only substances that can get clumped in your dog's paws. Salt and ice melt can be toxic if licked, as well as corrosive to the skin. Avoid areas treated with chemicals, and use pet-friendly de-icers on your own sidewalks and driveway. Also, be careful not to keep your dog outside in the cold for too long; dogs can get frostbite or hypothermia (signs include shivering, moving slowly and anxiety).